Wildlife biologists are important to the safety and preservation of animal species, but they also benefit society as a whole. They observe animals in their natural habitats and conduct experimental studies to test for environmental hazards, diseases and unusual movement patterns. Without wildlife biologists, it is difficult for some communities to ensure the safety of animals and humans who live in the area.
Teachers Aren't Just for Classrooms
Wildlife biologists are scientists who educate communities on animal habitats and issues associated with undomesticated animals. They often work for government agencies, such as city or state parks departments, and help with wildlife interpretation, according to the Purdue University College of Agriculture. They might lead nature walks, offer wildlife presentations at public libraries and teach about wildlife preservation in local schools. Their knowledge and experience from examining animals in their natural habitats can help residents understand eating patterns, environmental factors and safety concerns that might put animals or unsuspecting humans at risk.
Because animal reproduction and sustainability levels are sensitive to environmental factors, weather, migration demands, available food sources and human interactions, wildlife biologists model, record and estimate animal populations. They notify government agencies when populations are low and animals need to be added to endangered species lists. They also educate rangers and animal control units to help them deal with animal overpopulations, which might lead to violent or aggressive animal behavior as competition for food increases. For example, an overpopulation of coyotes could endanger livestock or domestic pets. Or, an overpopulation of flying geese could endanger travelers and airplane crews as they attempt to land or take off from runways.
Animals Get Sick, Too
Unfortunately, disease can spread through undomesticated animals, and wildlife biologists must test and examine them for potential causes. They often run blood tests on sick or dead animals to isolate diseases. For example, bird flu, Colorado tick fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, West Nile virus, Malaria and rabies are caused by parasites and other contaminants that affect wildlife populations, according to the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management website, hosted by professors from several leading U.S. universities. Animals often serve as hosts for contamination, even if they aren't the original sources, and can adversely affect humans and other animals who come in contact with them.
Wildlife biologists help train wildlife workers on safety measures that must be used when transporting, testing, containing and examining animals, especially when disease is known or suspected. Without a proper understanding of health risks and necessary protective measures, live and dead animals pose dangers to humans and healthy animals. Wildlife biologists instruct workers to research common animal-related diseases in their region and watch for symptoms, get preexposure vaccinations and use sanitation procedures when handling sick or dead animals, according to The Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management.
2016 Salary Information for Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists
Zoologists and wildlife biologists earned a median annual salary of $60,520 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, zoologists and wildlife biologists earned a 25th percentile salary of $48,360, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $76,320, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 19,400 people were employed in the U.S. as zoologists and wildlife biologists.