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Careers to help sustain our world

We make our land work hard for us, to feed us and provide us with water and places to live. Often we have to restore habitats so that other animals and plants can return to the land we use. Biologists find ways to protect the environment and help humans to live sustainably.

Follow a career in biology and you can make a difference. You could protect our plants and animals and the habitat they live in.

Conservation

Biologists are involved in protecting, managing and monitoring the existing resources of our land including:

  • analysing soil, water and air for chemical pollution
  • finding ways to clean up pollution
  • identifying, recording and monitoring the plants and animals that share the land we use.

Biologists look at ways environmental contaminants (such as chlorinated pesticides, heavy metals and oil spills), can be removed from the land using bioremediation (rather than introducing more chemicals). For example some microbes, naturally present in soil, contain enzymes that can change the structure of the toxic hydrocarbons present in kerosene-based jet fuel transforming them into harmless carbon dioxide. These microbes have been used to successfully clean up fuel spills in many areas.

Field ecologists record the plants and animals they find, the quality of the habitats they are in and any changes that take place over time. Biologists work with the public and other groups to make sure that people can enjoy and use the land while limiting their impact on the plants and animals found there. For example, they study the interactions of birds and plants to educate farmers on the advantages of having botanical field borders (rather than fences) and offer advice on the composition of plants required to sustain the native bird population.

Building and Industry

Most industries have some effect on the environment and there is government legislation that requires industry to reduce its impact on land, air and water. Biologists working within industry might be involved in the planning of a new road to make sure important wildlife areas are not disturbed or they might be employed after mining activity to restore damaged land.

Ecological consultants carry out environmental impact assessments, which must be completed before any major building/planning project is undertaken. They provide advice on how a particular project might impact on the land, plants and animals. In cases where a project must happen but will affect important species, ecologists help to move animals to new homes and create appropriate new habitats.

Where do these biologists work?

Ecologists work for a variety of organisations with a range of roles. They might have a conservation role, protecting, managing and monitoring existing resources or work within industry to design and supervise restoration projects for disturbed, degraded or contaminated land. One of the biggest growth areas in the environment sector is ecological consultancy. The UK like many other countries has national agencies, both government and charitable with responsibilities for conserving wildlife.

There are also jobs that involve communicating to the public, school students, journalists and the government.

Job titles you might see for biologists working in land restoration

Ecologist, conservationist, biochemist, toxicologist, microbiologist, environmental analyst, environmental consultant, environmental health officer, environmental planner, forester, oceanographer.

What you might study

Land management, geomicrobiology, ecology, environmental science, marine biology.

Links

Becoming a Biologist – Degrees and Careers in Biology (Royal Society of Biology)

British Ecological Society

Environmental Science (Prospects)

Landscape Scientist profile (National Careers Service)

Oceanographer profile (National Careers Service)

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