Imagine standing in a bright, sunny glade on a warm summer afternoon. You have been hiking around this park enjoying the sunshine for hours now, and if the weather holds, you will be doing this again tomorrow and the day after that. While you've been enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, you have also kept a close eye on the plants around you, diligently recording what you see.
You are a botanist and you have been sent here to begin recording data on plant species that will be included in a report on environmentally sensitive areas.
The data you record will become a baseline for species richness that can be used to measure the health of these sensitive areas in the future.
As a botanist, you are used to doing baseline surveys for newly recognized environmentally sensitive areas. You know how important your work will be to long-term protection.
You start by recording all plant species present in the area, which is your measure of species richness. You use your field classification guide to identify each species based on taxonomic characteristics. This is probably the hardest part of the job because there can be hundreds of different kinds of plants in a single area.
For each kind of plant, you also take note of its relative abundance and distribution. You look at how many plants there are of each species and where they are in relation to one another.
This survey and species map will demonstrate what the environmentally sensitive area looks like now so that future conservation efforts can be directed to keeping the area that way.
What does a botanist do? The roles of a botanist vary from job to job. The following list includes typical responsibilities and job duties for a botanist. Botanists might:
The primary focus of a botanist is to monitor the usage, development, and classification of plants. One of the main attractions of this occupation is you can either alternate between or choose different work environments to find what works best for you.
Listed below are the different work environments offered as a botanist and the corresponding tasks:
Please note there is no strenuous physical activity within this role, although fieldwork may experience drastic weather conditions and rugged terrain depending on location and individuals may need to be capable of lifting up to 50kg (subject to work requirements).
There are a number of places to find botanist jobs. They include:
Search for botany jobs on the ECO Canada Job Board.
If you’re wondering how to get a job as a botanist, you should have a strong interest in:
In most cases, the minimum education requirement to become a botanist is a university undergraduate degree. For a research position, a graduate degree may be required. If you are a post-secondary student considering a botanist career; the following programs are most applicable:
Although it is not necessary to become certified in order to work as a botanist, most practitioners choose to apply for professional status. The requirements for these designations vary among provinces.
Some certifications that may be considered an asset includes:
Hard/ Technical Skills (skills obtained through formal education and training programs)
Soft Skills (personal attributes and characteristics)
Environmental employers look for professionals who can combine technical knowledge with soft skills. Watch our free webinar “Essential Not Optional: Skills Needed to Succeed in Canada’s Environmental Industry.” or our Essential Skills courses.
It was the complexity of plants that sparked Joyce Gould’s interest in botany, but it wasn’t until she spent a summer in the north as a research assistant for a botany graduate student that her desire to become a botanist was solidified. "I absolutely loved it…I decided I wanted a job where I could combine the fieldwork with the science.”
Today, as a botanist for the Province of Alberta, Joyce continues to enjoy this combination of field and scientific work. In an average year, the Ph.D. candidate usually works in the field from June until August. The other 75 percent of the year, she is either at her desk or in her herbarium (plant lab). Her responsibilities range from helping the public identify rare plant species to working with wildlife officials on recovery planning for rare plants. And she knows how vital her work is to the environment: "Plants are an important part of our natural heritage…they are an important part of our biodiversity.”
Despite a heavy workload, Joyce says the positive aspects of her job far outweigh the negative. The highlight of her work continues to be interacting with the public. "I see this as a way to educate people about the importance of plants and the perplexities that are related to the conservation of plants.” This interaction allows her to do what she is most proud of, which is "opening up the world of plants to people in a general way.”
As a botanist, you may study physiological processes, the evolutionary history of plants, relationships among plants, or interactions between plants and the environment. Botanists also research various issues related to climate change such as ecosystem conservation, weed control, and changes in vegetation.
Botanists are important for environmental stewardship, particularly in conservation, sustainable practices, and remediation. Botanists’ research can be crucial for determining how plants react to climate change, or how effective and sustainable systems are able to protect native species from invasive ones. Botanist specializations in an area of plant research may include pathology, plant physiology, or plant taxonomy.
Botany is more important to our everyday lives than what we think. The findings of botanical research can be influential in improving global supplies of medicines, food, and numerous other plant products. Governments and organizations seek botanists as advisors to help maintain and improve national parks, forests, and wilderness areas. A botanist’s understanding of plant science is important for developing effective means to minimize or eliminate the negative effects of climate change.
Individuals employed as botanists may be classified in one or more of the following occupational groupings:
NOC Code: 2121- Biologists and Related Scientists
The National Occupation Classification (NOC) provides a standardized language for describing the work performed by Canadians in the labour market. It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers and individual job seekers a consistent way to collect data, describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.
The NOC is developed and updated in partnership with Statistics Canada to coincide with the 5- year census cycles. It is based on in-depth occupational research and consultations conducted across Canada, to reflect changes in the Canadian labour market.
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