What Is Zoology? A Beginner’s Guide
A zoologist is a life scientist who specializes in the study of animals. These animal studies may take place either in a laboratory or in an animal’s natural environment. A zoologist will learn how a species developed from its origin as well as focusing on its behaviors.
Zoology is often confused with wildlife biology, but the two fields have differences. A zoologist studies the physical qualities of each animal as well as the animal’s behavior and its habitat. A wildlife biologist will study both plants and animals. Both professions eventually specialize in one species. For instance, ornithologists study birds, and herpetologists study reptiles.
Zoology is a field covering a large area, with many specialties and offering a wealth of opportunities. These include research in animal disease, conservation, and ecology. Some zoologists do most of their work in the laboratory, studying an organism or parts of an organism. Others specialize in natural history and spend most of their time in the field.
Careers in Zoology
Many zoologists go into teaching and are employed by colleges and universities, where they continue to conduct research as well as instruct others. But there are other areas where zoologists can make a living, even enforcing environmental laws. These include:
· Federal agencies
· County agencies
· State agencies
· U.S. Geological Survey
· Department of Energy
· Private businesses
These various places of employment can offer a variety of positions for a zoologist. They may include:
· Experimental studies
· Maintenance and recovery of wildlife
· Wildlife education
· Wildlife rehabilitation
· State or national park education and field trips
· Collection and study of pollutants
What It Takes to Be a Zoologist
Anyone with an interest in a career in zoology should plan on studying biology. This specialty requires quite a bit of math as well as good oral and written skills. Computer skills are a must, even for people who want to work primarily in the field. The ability to work independently is important, as is an innate curiosity and attention to details. A love for animals is, of course, a big plus. But anyone who wants to be a zoologist should also be able to get along with people. The field typically requires a good deal of teamwork as well as the ability to communicate with people who have no science background.
Employers appreciate a candidate’s experience with research, internships, or other types of hands-on experience that relates to zoology. Many zoologists, once earning their bachelor’s degree, will move onto their master’s degree or doctorate while pursuing a specialty.
Four Famous Zoologists
Steve Irwin: According to Ranker, the world’s most famous (or favorite) zoologist is Steve Irwin. The Australian gained notoriety through a documentary TV series called “The Crocodile Hunter” that was co-hosted with his wife Terri. The Irwins owned Australia Zoo, north of Brisbane. Irwin was killed in September 2006 when he was pierced in the heart by a barb from the tail of a stingray.
Dian Fossey: Made famous by the feature film named after her book, “Gorillas in the Mist,” American zoologist/anthropologist Dian Fossey studied gorillas in the mountains of Rwanda. Fossey was one of the foremost primatologists in the world and a formidable activist against poaching. She was murdered in 1985, and her case is as yet unsolved.
Jane Goodall:Dame Jane Morris Goodall, DBE, is an English zoologist, primatologist, ethologist, and anthropologist, as well as a UN Messenger of Peace. Goodall is most well-known for her over 50 years of studying wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. She founded Jane Goodall Institute, promoting conservation and animal welfare issues. Since 1996, she has served on the board of the Nonhuman Rights Project.
Jack Hanna: American zookeeper Jack Hanna is the Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. He served as director of the zoo from 1978 to 1993. He gained fame through his appearances with animals with Johnny Carson and David Letterman.
How Much a Zoologist Earns
A zoologist typically starts out earning around $30,000 per year, and after five years or so, will work up to an annual salary of $55,000.