Working as a Zoologist

Zoologists work with animals ranging from plankton to elephants. They work in labs, deserts, jungles and underwater. Their friends and relatives may have their doubts about their work and lifestyle, but zoologists are among the most dedicated of all scientists.

They're also among some of the most famous scientists. A list of famous zoologists includes real pioneers like:

  • Gerald Durrell (British zoologist, founder of Jersey Zoo, one of the very first global wildlife conservationists)

  • Sir David Attenborough (British documentary maker and public face of world zoology)

  • Henri Fabre (French zoologist, pioneer of modern entomology)

  • Wilhelm Goetsche (German zoologist and founder of modern myrmecology, the study of ants)

  • Edward O. Wilson (American Harvard zoologist famous for his studies of myrmecology with colleague Bert Holldobler and controversial for wider studies of zoology in a social context)

The career path

The career path defines the work.

Related career fields of zoology include

  • Marine biology
  • Entomology
  • Herpetology
  • Ichthyology
  • Aquaculture
  • Parasitology
  • Ornithology

Each field has multiple specializations involving studying different types of animals.

The work environment

A zoologist's work involves:

Field work: This can involve quite literally working all over the world. A zoologist may study their subjects, whether they're gorillas or insects, for months or years on site. The work includes specimen collection, behavioral studies, biological studies and frequently ecological studies to explore habitats and the animal life cycles and related issues. Field work requires patience, excellent professional techniques and is a defining form of applied zoology. It's also one of the primary training grounds for zoologists in the realities of their professions.

Lab work: Zoology includes advanced analytical methods and advanced biological research. Zoologists are almost by definition researchers. The lab work is a critically important part of academic zoology. This is almost forensic level study of all aspects of animal biology, including reproduction, toxicology, parasitology, pathology of animal diseases, and other fundamental science. Lab work may be carried out in more comfortable environments than field work, but the technical demands are very high, particularly in pure research. This is hard and often detailed mental work, even for professionals.

Academic work: Zoology is a formal science in all its different forms, and all the hard work in the field and the lab also translates into formal studies. To give some idea of the importance of this work, zoology and botany are the sources of almost all raw data and information regarding environmental studies. The level of information we now take for granted didn't even exist in the 1950s. Zoology was one of the prime movers for collection of this form of data and applying it to global studies.

Zoology in the academic sphere collects, produces and analyzes data concerning:

  • Population levels and distribution of species
  • Ecological status of species
  • Environmental data relevant to ecosystems and specific species
  • Studies of spread of disease in animal populations
  • Transgenic transmission of diseases between animals and humans
  • Animal plague data (locusts, rabbits, ants, jellyfish, invasive species)
  • Species and habitat specific studies

These studies can take decades in some cases. Some studies are permanent, ongoing operations providing a continuum of data in major studies. Others are pure research, important groundbreaking studies of new areas or sometimes even new species.