Zoologists are life scientists who study animals, observing them in the laboratory and in their natural habitat. They study the origin and development of species as well as their habits, behaviors and interactions. Zoologists, who also research the development of animal diseases, sometimes known as animal scientists or animal biologists because zoology is the branch of biology that deals with the animal kingdom.
Zoology is a wide field offering many career opportunities for research, especially because there still is a great deal to learn about it. A career in zoology offers an opportunity to make a difference to the planet’s ecology through conservation work. Most zoologists are employed by colleges and universities, where they engage in research and teach students.
In general, all zoology specializations involve work with animals, either in the wild or in a lab. Some zoologists study the entire organism while other zoologists study only parts of an organism. Also, zoology is not merely an observational pastime for natural history buffs; it involves analytical research and experimental laboratory components, just as all other biological sciences do. As with other disciplines, zoologists work outdoors in the field and in laboratories using a wide variety of scientific equipment. Some zoologists conduct field research in remote areas and harsh climates, which can involve strenuous physical activity and primitive living conditions.
Animal behaviorism is the scientific study of animal behavior and involves investigating everything animals do. Animals studied include single-celled organisms, invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Animal behaviorists investigate the relationship of animals to their physical environment as well as to other organisms. Studied topics include how animals find and defend resources, avoid predators, choose mates and reproduce and care for their young.
People who study animal behavior are concerned with understanding the causes, functions, development and evolution of animal behavior. Animal behaviorists will study the behavior functions, including the behavior’s immediate effects on animals and its adaptive value in helping the animal to survive or reproduce successfully in a particular environment. Animal behaviorists also will study the development of behavior to see the ways in which behavior changes during the lifetime of an animal and how those changes are affected both by genes and by experience.
Students planning careers as field biologists need strong mathematical skills and should like working with computers. Perseverance, curiosity and the ability to concentrate on details and work independently are essential.
In addition to basic biological knowledge, interested students should seek opportunities to demonstrate they can work well with a wide variety of people. Good oral and written communication skills are critical, as many scientists work as part of a team, write research papers or proposals and have contact with clients or customers with nonscience backgrounds.
Experience through internships, undergraduate research or co-op programs is valued highly by employers and graduate schools.
Although there are career opportunities for zoologists with only a bachelor’s degree, many professional field biologists hold either a master’s degree or a Ph.D. For this reason, individuals interested in careers in zoology should give careful consideration to graduate study and should research the different jobs available at the B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. levels as part of choosing a major of study.
Most scientists involved directly in animal behavior work in one of four broad fields: ethology (the scientific study of animal behavior considered as a branch of zoology), comparative psychology, behavioral ecology or anthropology. These disciplines overlap greatly in their goals, interests and methods. Historically, psychologists and ethologists primarily have been concerned with the regulation and functions of animal behavior, whereas behavioral ecologists have focused on how animal behavioral patterns relate to social and environmental conditions. Ethologists and behavioral ecologists typically are trained in departments of biology, zoology, ecology and evolution, entomology, wildlife or other animal sciences. Most comparative psychologists are trained in psychology departments.
Some jobs in animal behavior require only a B.A. or B.S. degree. However, most careers in animal behavior require advanced degrees, such as an M.A. or M.S., or, more likely, a Ph.D. or D.V.M.
Answered By: Heather H - 7/10/2008