Conservation Biologist

Conservation biologists protect and restore biodiversity and aim to understand and minimize human impacts on the natural world as well as on scarce animal populations. Through research and observation, conservation biologists help establish plans for maintaining habitats and animal populations at sustainable levels.

At a Glance

Imagine you are crouched down on the edge of a small river, carefully observing a pack of wolves ambling along the opposite bank.

You are a conservation biologist and you have been studying and gathering data on this particular group of wolves over the past few days.

The River Pack, as it has been dubbed by your research team, is losing valuable habitat, and its population is declining quickly. You are all here to determine what can be done to protect the habitat and save this pack.

As a conservation biologist, you must consider a few issues. To begin with, you gather data on the life history of these wolves, including their average life span, reproductive and mortality rates, and average litter size. You also study their food and habitat requirements and look at how much of each is available and how this affects the pack's range.

Your work as a conservation biologist also includes studying the wolves' predators and prey. For example, the River Pack hunts primarily deer, so you are interested in the area's deer population, including its size and reproductive rate. You will then examine the area's human population and the influences it has on local wildlife, particularly with habitat loss.

By researching wolf studies from other areas, you can begin to evaluate the success of different strategies that have been implemented to protect wolf populations. As you determine the best way to preserve habitat and protect the River Pack population, you will balance all these factors.

Job Duties

Job duties vary significantly from one position to the next, but in general conservation biologists’ typical responsibilities and job duties might be to:

  • Plan and conduct environmental studies to define problems and identify issues
  • Plan restoration efforts for damaged ecosystems
  • Conduct long-term monitoring of populations
  • Synthesize information to conduct ecological and environmental impact studies
  • Prepare reports and develop new practices in biological research
  • Design and conduct field or lab studies and other research on the environment and the relationships between living organisms
  • Study and evaluate strategies for using land without affecting wildlife habitat
  • Liaise with government representatives, conservation groups, and landowners
  • Ensure the maintenance of ecological data as a basis for ecosystem management
  • Locate funding for research and conservation projects

Work Environment

The main role of a conservation biologist is to research and observe animal populations and come up with ideas to keep their populations healthy. As a result, the work environments for this occupation vary.

Listed below are the different work environments offered as a conservation biologist and the corresponding tasks:

The office:

  • Analyzing and managing data and reviewing reports
  • Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, stakeholders, government departments, colleagues, and experts in the field
  • Researching new studies and techniques for conservation
  • Compiling data and preparing reports and scientific articles

The lab:

  • Processing samples
  • Sampling design and scientific research

The field:

  • Studying wildlife populations and ecosystems
  • Recording data and observations
  • Carrying out habitat assessments

Please note: Fieldwork may place individuals in hazardous locations where they might be exposed to chemicals, infectious bacteria, viruses, and other substances that might pose a dangerous risk and/or cause illness.

Where to Work

There are a number of places conservation biologists can find employment. They include:

  • Federal, provincial/territorial, and First Nations government departments
  • Colleges, universities, and research institutes
  • Environmental and engineering consulting firms
  • Conservation authorities and centres
  • Not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations

Search for conservation biologist jobs on the ECO Canada Job Boad

Education and Skills

If you are considering a conservation biologist career, you should have a strong interest in:

  • Biology
  • Mathematics
  • English
  • Chemistry

In most cases, the minimum education requirement to find a conservation biologist job is a university undergraduate degree. If you are interested in research, a graduate degree is usually required.

If you are a post-secondary student considering a conservation biologist career, the following programs are most applicable:

  • Conservation Biology
  • Biomedical Sciences
  • Wildlife Biology
  • Ecology
  • Forestry
  • Natural Resource Management
  • Environmental Science

Although it is not necessary to become certified to work as a conservation biologist, some practitioners choose to apply for certification. The requirements for this designation vary among provinces.

Some certifications that may be considered an asset includes:


Hard/ Technical Skills (obtained through formal education and training programs)

  • Microsoft Office
  • Quality Control
  • Ecological assessment
  • Statistical modelling
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • Risk assessment
  • Knowledge of Federal and Provincial/Territorial regulations

Soft Skills (personal attributes and characteristics)

  • Strong oral and written communication
  • Active listening
  • Ability to work independently and with a team
  • Marketing
  • Time management
  • Organizational skills
  • Self-motivated

Environmental employers look for professionals who can combine technical knowledge with soft skills. Watch at our free webinar “Essential Not Optional: Skills Needed to Succeed in Canada’s Environmental Industry” or take our Essential Skills courses.

Role Models

Henry Lickers

When Henry Lickers started work as a biologist on the Akwesasne Reserve, "They had a host of different problems-airborne contaminants from smelters nearby, contaminated fish in the St. Lawrence River, problems with water quality, water levels and flows. They needed a biologist who could look at these problems and the data that was coming from the government." The problems aren't all solved, but Henry isn't working alone anymore.

He supervises a staff of eight that monitors conditions on the reserve. "Right now we are beginning the summer sampling period-counting ducks, looking for snapping turtles, doing monitoring to help us understand the environment." Henry has always had a natural aptitude for statistics, an ability that has become more and more important in his work. "If you want to work in this field, do as my grandfather told me, see the way the numbers dance. You're looking at the poetry, the dancing of the numbers when you think of the numbers this way. "As

Native people, we know that the music we hold in our soul is the song of the drum. When you combine the dance of the numbers with the song of the drum, you have a process and a way of doing things that is strong enough to answer any question." "My work now seems to be doing the dance of the numbers to the world but also bringing to them the spirit of the drum. We have been acknowledged for some cutting-edge science, major health studies. Like I said, it's that song of the drum that keeps us going."

Your Impact

What is a conservation biologist? A conservation biologist is driven to protect all life on the planet. As a conservation biologist, your research, observant skills and innovative ideas help to maintain and improve animal populations, stop accelerated extinctions of endangered life, and keep the earth healthy.

In Canada, it is common to drive through National Parks like Banff or Gatineau Park, where individuals are exposed to and enthralled by the beauty in the landscape and mesmerized by animals that they don’t come across on a day-to-day basis. From wolves looking for their next hunt to deer enjoying wild berries, and eagles soaring, all these animals interacting with one another play a big part in Canada’s natural ecosystem

As a conservation biologist, you may monitor environmental conditions, population sizes and other important environmental health indicators. Conservation biologists emphasize the use of planning and sustainable management practices to prevent species extinction and reverse damages to ecosystems.

This aspect of a conservation biologist’s job typically involves working closely with landowners and governments at municipal, provincial, and federal levels. Many conservation biologists collaborate with other scientists and technicians.

Rhinoceroses are a poignant example of the importance of conservation biologists’ work. Once deemed extinct, the Southern White Rhino has now reached a stable population of over 20,000.

This rebound was made possible through conservation efforts in their natural habitats in Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. When conservation biologists control conditions within the environment, sustaining endangered species becomes more achievable.

Occupational Classification

Individuals employed as conservation biologists may be classified in one or more of the following occupational groupings:

NOC Code: 2121 - Biologists and Related Scientists

NOC Code: 2224 - Conservation and Fisheries Officers

NOC Code: 2221 - Biological Technologists and Technicians

NOC Code: 2223 - Forestry Technologists and Technicians

What is a NOC Code?

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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