What is Conservation Biology?

D. Jeffress

Conservation biology incorporates many fields of scientific research and environmental management studies. Biologists study evolution, ecology, and Earth science to better understand how populations of organisms react to changes in their environment. Conservation biology is important in identifying and countering many current threats to ecosystems and biodiversity. Scientists often focus on educating the public about the dangers of global warming, deforestation, and pollution, as well as advocating the benefits of sustainable practices.

Conservation biologists study evolution, ecology, and earth sciences.
Conservation biologists study evolution, ecology, and earth sciences.

Experts in the field of conservation biology conduct both field and laboratory research. Scientists routinely spend several months or even years in the field, recording observations and gathering samples of both organic and inorganic material for laboratory analysis. Keen attention to detail, ethics, and strict adherence to scientific standards are essential for biologists to make accurate conclusions about the best means of conserving resources and protecting biodiversity.

Scientists track habitats like deserts, focusing on a particular population of organisms.
Scientists track habitats like deserts, focusing on a particular population of organisms.

Many conservation biologists recreate environmental conditions in laboratories to test theories about the effects of predation, climate change, and adaptation. Through the rigorous application of the scientific method, biologists are able to make strong predictions about how organisms react to their environment. Many biologists publish detailed scientific papers and journals about their findings to add to the ever-growing collection of conservation studies. Scientists also commonly write recommendations for industries and governments about the importance of conservation and steps that can be taken to improve environmental conditions.

In order to achieve detailed results, scientists tend to focus their research on specific areas of conservation biology. A biologist might, for example, choose to study marine ecology in a specific area, investigating plant and animal life and recording behaviors. He or she may collect water samples to check for pollution levels and monitor the changes in the marine ecosystem over time. Scientists also commonly study desert, forest, or grassland biomes, or focus specifically on a certain population of organisms. Further, biologists might concentrate on the effects of microbial bacteria in an ecosystem or changes in natural processes such as the water or carbon cycle.

A large number of conservation biologists are actively involved in public awareness, education, and environmental cleanup efforts. Many conservation biology experts work for nonprofit environmental protection groups and government agencies that promote sustainable living. A biologist may also choose to become a secondary teacher or college professor, where he or she can educate young people about the importance of conservation. By working with the public, scientists shed light on many confusing environmental issues and encourage individuals to do their part in protecting Earth's valuable resources and organisms.

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