"Biodiversity" is short for biological diversity; the differences between organisms and species on our planet. It includes genetic variations among these groups, which is just what makes one person different from another and also different from other species. Biodiversity also refers to the complex interactions between organisms, species, and populations in communities and ecosystems - basically, how the different groups interact with one another; the "web of life."
Scientists in biodiversity are concerned with identifying why we have biodiversity and where it originated, as well as how we can maintain it. Scientists in this field study the effects of habitat loss, invasive species, and overexploitation on biodiversity, and they also design solutions for loss of biodiversity. Some of these solutions include designating nature reserves and wilderness areas, restoring degraded ecosystems, and, when necessary, protecting endangered species within zoos, aquariums and parks.
Biodiversity is important because it enriches the quality of life for all of the Earth's organisms. Each organism provides some valuable service or resource to others; for example, trees provide habitat and food for animals, people, insects, fungi, and microbes. Certain trees provide certain foods for certain animals; for example, Giant Pandas prefer to eat bamboo, and their numbers have dwindled since the vast disappearance of their preferred food. Therefore, protecting species diversity is vitally important to the survival of all organisms on this planet; including humans. Think how unhealthy we would be if we only had a few kinds of plants to eat, or what would happen if we had one kind of tree for lumber and a disease wiped out all of that tree species. Protecting our natural resources now is vital to our long-term survival as a species.
The Academic Requirements
Students will take biology courses, including ecology and conservation biology, in their first few years at college. Most programs also have research and/or field study to give students hands-on experience in the field. Students will also gain valuable research skills, including writing and computer modeling.
Then, according to the program, students will take any number of courses to help them become well-rounded scientists. For example, the Cedar Crest College website states that, "Science must be integrated into policy so that conservation plans can be put into practice. Towards this end, students will get a strong grounding in public policy analysis and in the examination of contemporary political perspectives through coursework, internships and service learning."
Here are some courses that we've seen:
- GIS and Spatial Modeling
- Chemical Equilibrium and Analysis
- Marine Biology
- Animal Behavior
- Field Entomology
- Tropical Ecology
- Topics in Biodiversity, Conservation and Policy
- Restoration Ecology
- Public Politics & Policy
- Environmental Impact Assessment
Many students who get their bachelor's degree in Biodiversity go on to graduate school in order to be able to work in field research, academia or environmental policy. Other students can go on to work in conservation, advocacy, law, or education. Students can work for government or non-governmental agencies and organizations, for environmental consulting firms, or in zoos, parks, or aquariums.
According to the Bureau of Labor, "Doctoral degree holders face considerable competition for independent research positions; holders of bachelor's or master's degrees in biological science can expect better opportunities in non-research positions." Biodiversity scientists, like botanists and wildlife ecologists, may spend a good deal of time in the field and in the lab conducting or helping out with research. Scientists can also expect to spend some time in the office, analyzing data, preparing reports and presenting information to others. Scientists in education will work mostly in schools but may still participate in research, especially in the summer.
Here are some job titles that we've seen, including some of the organizations that offer them, all of which included a requirement for experience in Biodiversity:
- Field Biologist (UltraSystems Environmental)
- Senior Biologist (PSOMAS)
- Conservation Biologist (The Wild Salmon Center)
- Associate Director (Wildlife Conservation Society)
- Research Associate (SMU)
- Park Ranger (City of Long Beach)
- Biodiversity Inventory & Monitoring Coordinator (University of Calgary)
- Biologist - Database Manager (Everglades National Park)
- Assistant Professor in Conservation Biology (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
- Conservation Science Officer (National Fish and Wildlife Foundation)
- Conservation Scientist (Defenders of Wildlife)
- Director (Predator Conservation Alliance)
- Evolutionary Ecologist (Old Dominion University)
- Field Assistant, Herpetology (Jones Ecological Research Center)
- Biodiversity Conservation Information System
- Cedar Crest College, Biodiversity & Conservation Biology
- Convention on Biological Diversity
- Ecological Society of America, "Biodiversity"
- Lee University, Environmental Science & Biodiversity
- Marine Conservation Biology Institute
- Society for Conservation Biology, Job Search
- State University of New York (SUNY), Albany, Biodiversity, Conservation and Policy Program
- Tree of Life Project Home Page
- U.S. Bureau of Labor, Statistics for Biological and Medical Scientists
- University of Georgia, Center for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Processes
- University of Leeds, Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation