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Ecologist: Job description

Ecologists are concerned with ecosystems as a whole, the abundance and distribution of organisms (people, plants, animals), and the relationships between organisms and their environment. Ecologists usually choose a specialist area (e.g. freshwater, marine, terrestrial, fauna, flora) and then carry out a wide range of tasks relating to that area.

When starting out, ecologists often conduct surveys to identify, record and monitor species and their habitats. With career progression, work is likely to become more wide-ranging, with senior ecologists being more involved in policy and management work.

It is important that ecologists are aware of environmental policies as their work commonly has to comply with European and UK environmental legislation.

Typical work activities

The exact work of an ecologist depends on the nature of the employer and the purpose of the work. For example, an ecologist may be involved in environmental impact assessments, which are required by law for planning permission. Alternatively, they may collect and manage biological information for national databases, e.g. the National Biodiversity Network (NBN)  or produce comprehensive lists of species that need to be monitored and protected as part of the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework .

Common work activities across roles may include:

  • conducting field surveys to collect information about the numbers and distribution of organisms;
  • taxonomy - classifying organisms;
  • applying sampling strategies and employing a range of habitat survey techniques, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS), aerial photography, records and maps;
  • carrying out environmental impact assessments;
  • analysing and interpreting data, using specialist software programs;
  • habitat management and creation;
  • writing reports and issuing recommendations;
  • liaising with and advising site managers, engineers, planners and others associated with a survey;
  • building relationships with stakeholders, including members of the public;
  • carrying out research;
  • undertaking teaching in schools or in field centres;
  • keeping up to date with new environmental policies and legislation;
  • contributing ideas about changes to policy and/or legislation, based on ecological findings.

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AGCAS
Written by AGCAS editors
Date: 
March 2013
 
 

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