Green Careers: Wildlife Biology
Passionate about protecting animals and their habitats? Curious about different animal species and the complex relationships that make up an ecosystem? You might find your calling as a wildlife biologist. Stay tuned this week for more green career profiles. If you haven’t already, take our quiz to discover which eco-profession could offer the best fit for you.
Green Careers: Wildlife Biology
Wildlife biologists research the characteristics and habitats of animals. Some do primarily office work, but if you’d rather work outdoors, check out field biologist or research biologist positions, which involve studying species’ feeding, mating, and/or social habits in their natural habitats. Fieldwork could also include collecting specimens, which the researcher will take back to a lab. There, he or she might dissect dead animals to understand their anatomy or how parasite might be affecting a wildlife population. Lab work could also entail data analysis using computer software.
Entry-level positions require at least a bachelor’s degree, while advancement often requires a master’s degree. A Ph.D. is a must for independent research or college teaching positions. Whatever field of study you choose, it should offer a strong foundation in biology, zoology, and botany.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of zoologists and wildlife biologists was $57,430 in May 2010.
Thinking of going to school to study wildlife biology? Check whether the schools you’re considering have a strong research program, as well as internship opportunities. While a few schools offer majors in wildlife management and wildlife biology, most have broader programs that encompass these fields, like environmental studies. Browse through the faculty web page for the relevant department to get a sense of its research focus and whether it aligns with your interests. Some schools that have wildlife biology programs offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees include the University of Florida, Iowa State University, and the University of California, Davis.
As usual, experience is key, and internships offer valuable opportunities for experience. You can find great hands-on internships at many zoos and aquariums. The Houston Zoo offers unpaid internships throughout the year in most animal sections, as well as horticulture, education, marketing, conservation and other areas, although not all sections accept interns year-round. The internship program requires a minimum 200-hour time commitment. Upon completing the program, the intern will give a 15- 20 minute presentation to other interns and zoo staff. Applicants must be at least 18 years old and a current or recent student in a field related to the desired placement. Scroll to the bottom of the Houston Zoo’s volunteer page for more details on the internship and application process. The zoo will accept internship applications through March 31.
The Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida offers an unpaid summer internship lasting from May 24 to August 31 in several of its departments. Intern responsibilities include, but aren’t limited to, daily care and feeding of animals, maintaining animal habitats and houses, behavioral observations, record keeping, animal enrichment, and public interactions. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and have a minimum 3.0 GPA. Animal department interns are expected to commit at least 25 hours per week, although some nights and weekends may be required. Applications are due by April 2. You can find more information on the zoo’s internship program page.
You can find more wildlife biology internship opportunities using the Association of Zoos and Aquariums jobs database. Click the radio button next to “Internships” to limit your search to internships.
Image by iStockphoto/tommicris
Melissa Pandika is an editorial intern at Sierra and a graduate journalism student at Stanford University. Her interests include environmental health and justice, urban environmental issues, and conservation biology. She has a soft spot for cetaceans.