Entomologist

Entomologists study the behaviour, ecology, and biology of insects and their impact on human health, agriculture, and the environment. Their work contributes to the development of sustainable agricultural practices, the prevention and control of insect-borne diseases, and the preservation of natural habitats. Entomologists can work in various industries, including agriculture, forestry, public health, and conservation.

At a Glance

Imagine walking through a damp coastal forest, searching for signs of insect damage on the leaves, stems, and barks of the forest's plants. You are an entomologist working for the provincial government's environment department, and your specialty is forest entomology. You have been called out to examine this site after a routine aerial inspection and subsequent ground checks reported a possible insect infestation. You are here to determine what threat this infestation poses to the forest and what should be done to minimize the damage.

As an entomologist, you are an insect expert and know how critical insects are to ecosystems. When you hear reports of infestations, you know it is never as simple as choosing an insecticide and spraying the affected area; it takes investigation and study to determine the proper course of action. In this case, you start by visiting the section of forest where damage has been reported and documenting the extent of the infestation. You also collect samples of the insects to take to the lab, where you will identify the specimens and determine if they are native to the area or an invasive species.

Infestations are treated differently based on their source, so it is important to know whether these insects are normally found in the area or have been introduced somehow. Once the species has been identified, you focus on other factors, such as determining what kind of threat the insect poses and to whom. Are these insects carrying diseases or destroying habitats and sources of food for other wildlife? Are there environmental conditions present that are driving this infestation? What effect will control measures have on the area? You will investigate all these questions and evaluate the situation carefully before deciding on the best way to address the infestation and slow or stop the spread of this insect.

 

Job Duties

The specific responsibilities of an entomologist vary depending on where they work and the specifics of their research. Entomologists generally study the physiology, behaviour, ecology, distribution, and habitat of insects and other terrestrial arthropods. Responsibilities they may be tasked with include:

  • Conducting research into the impact and control of terrestrial arthropod pests.
  • Investigate and evaluate the roles of insects and other terrestrial arthropods in forestry, agriculture, human health, and the environment.
  • Recommend ways to prevent the importation and spread of pest arthropods.
  • Study the evolution of terrestrial arthropods.
  • Identify terrestrial arthropods using morphological and molecular techniques.
  • Conduct experiments in plant and arthropod development.
  • Discover and describe new species of terrestrial arthropod.
  • Monitor biodiversity as part of ongoing efforts to preserve ecological integrity in natural landscapes.
  • Develop biological methods for controlling harmful terrestrial arthropods (such as pathogens, predators, parasites, or genetic methods) and implement pest management programs.
  • Develop methods for controlling weeds using herbivorous insects and mites.
  • Conduct field and laboratory tests of pesticides and biological control agents to evaluate their effect on pest species under different conditions.
  • Preserve and maintain museum collections.
  • Prepare and provide information to help the public identify insects and other arthropods.
  • Coordinate public awareness and education programs.
  • Work with scientists in other fields.

Entomologists usually specialize in fields of study such as apiculture (bee husbandry), agriculture, or forest entomology. Some specialize in classification and evolution, insect ecology and physiology, or insecticide toxicology.

Work Environment

Entomologists work in a variety of locations, including, but not limited to:

The office:

  • Doing paperwork and analyzing data for reporting
  • Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, government departments, colleagues, and experts in the field
  • Developing and implementing management practices and policies to accomplish agency objectives
  • Researching new studies and advancements in entomology, and conducting literature reviews from scientific publications
  • Developing educational material, including workshops, for the public and other stakeholders

The lab:

  • Processing and analyzing specimens

The field:

  • Inspecting sites and collecting samples
  • Conducting experiments and research into insecticide effectiveness and environmental impacts

Entomologists will often work outside the standard 40-hour work week. The timing of the work can be dictated by the insects’ activity rather than the calendar or clock. They may travel to get to research sites or attend conferences.

Entomologists carry out research in labs, controlled-environment chambers, greenhouses, and agricultural plots. They may spend much time preparing and analyzing data. The work may be tedious.

Entomologists also do field research. Fieldwork can be strenuous and involve physical labour. It can mean living in a remote location for long periods. Safety is essential when faced with dangerous wildlife, rough terrain, or adverse weather conditions.

Entomologists safely handle poisonous and allergenic insects and arthropods that carry disease-causing microbes and toxic chemicals.

Where to Work

There are several places to find work as an entomologist. They include:

  • Federal, provincial/territorial, or municipal government departments
  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting services
  • Scientific research and development services
  • Environmental consulting companies
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Chemical manufacturing companies
  • Pest control companies
  • Museums
  • Self-employed


Search for jobs on the ECO Canada Job Board.

Education and Skills

Education 

If you are a high school student considering a career as an entomologist, you should have strong marks or an interest in:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics
  • English

In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as an entomologist is a university graduate degree. If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as an entomologist, the following programs are most applicable:

  • Entomology
  • Ecology
  • Conservation Biology
  • Ecosystem Management
  • Toxicology

In most cases, it is unnecessary to become certified to work as an entomologist (unless the entomologist is also a professional biologist). However, most practitioners belong to provincial and national entomological societies. In some instances, entomologists working in industries such as forestry and agriculture must be registered professionals with their provincial associations. The requirements for certification and professional status vary among provinces.

Our Environmental Professional (EP) designation can also help you progress in your chosen environmental career.

Skills 

Technical Skills

  • Participating in and supervising research projects
  • Handling insects
  • Synthesizing information, developing research questions, conducting research and preparing reports
  • Handling insects
  • Insect identification and classification
  • Population dynamics
  • Forest entomology

Personal and Professional Skills 

  • Flexibility
  • Curiosity, creativity, patience, and perseverance
  • Communication skills
  • Data-management skills
  • Manual dexterity
  • Physical and mental stamina for working outdoors

Environmental employers seek professionals who combine technical knowledge with personal and professional skills. Watch our free webinar “Essential Not Optional: Skills Needed to Succeed in Canada’s Environmental Industry” or take our Essential Skills courses.

Education and Skills

Sandy M. Smith

When I was in school I knew I wanted to observe the actions of living things. I liked to see responsive behaviour and originally intended to pursue microbiology. After looking at Petri dishes and through microscopes for awhile it was obvious that there wasn’t enough going on to keep me interested. I chose insects and I have been fascinated with them for the twenty-two years of my career. I needed a practical application for my education in entomology and I soon found it with Forestry Canada. A couple of years later I joined the University of Toronto and advanced from Adjunct to Assistant Professor and then to Associate Professor.

Through research, hard work, collaboration and sound scientific process I have been able to establish the respect of my colleagues and peers. One of the rewards of this occupation I value most is my autonomy. An entomologist with a doctorate can find employment opportunities in teaching at universities or colleges or research positions in government, private industry or environmental consulting non-governmental agencies. I need to be aware of research priorities, government policies and funding criteria. It is essential to anticipate the next question of importance so you are prepared with a proposal to meet those needs.

To do all this requires me to read constantly from scientific journals as well as the Internet. I also receive current research papers from the university library on topics of interest. Sometimes the amount of information is difficult to manage, however, it is important to keep your standards high. As a university professor, I see increasing pressure to perform better in terms of teaching, research and administration. An emerging trend is to separate the practicing professional working in the field from those that research and those that teach. As the demands on individuals increase, there will often be one person who focuses on teaching and one who focuses on research where before a single person covered those roles. My personal future will include research in other parts of the country where I hope to broaden the scientific basis of my work.

Know what you don’t like and you’ll find what you like. If you work hard and are good at what you do the job will come. Networking is a great way to make connections. The community of entomologists is small in Canada and even internationally so it is easy to get to know many of the people in this type of work. I am a professor at a university so my work is a balance of research and teaching roles. Daily tasks include writing research proposals for funding agencies, designing and setting up experiments, collecting data in the lab, analyzing and interpreting data, writing scientific papers for journals, reviewing other people’s journal papers and writing summaries and annual reports for funding agencies.

My teaching role involves classroom lecture, review of student graduate theses, administrative roles and setting academic programs. I get re-energized by the students. Their positive, critical approach is inspiring and makes me aware of the possibilities for my own learning During my career as an entomologist I have trained thirty-five graduate students in advanced degrees, published fifty-four refereed journal papers, provided a biological pest control alternative to practitioners, taught in over fifteen courses at the university and became President of the Entomological Society of Canada. I was fortunate to receive the C. Gordon Hewitt Award from the Entomological Society of Canada for "Outstanding Achievement in Entomology by an Individual Under 40 in Canada”. These accomplishments are a career-long contribution to the betterment of the environment.

Your Impact

Entomologists play an essential role in promoting sustainability and improving human and environmental health by studying insects' behaviour, ecology, and biology and developing sustainable pest management strategies.

Entomologists contribute to sustainability by developing and promoting integrated pest management strategies and prioritizing non-chemical and environmentally friendly pest control methods (e.g., applying insect pheromones to disrupt mating, using natural predators and parasites, or using physical barriers to prevent pest entry). By reducing the reliance on chemical pesticides, entomologists can help to minimize the environmental impact of pest control measures and promote sustainable agriculture.

Entomologists also play an essential role in protecting human health by studying the spread of insect-borne diseases, such as malaria, West Nile virus, and Lyme disease. By identifying the biology and behaviour of disease-carrying insects, entomologists can develop effective strategies for controlling their populations and preventing the spread of disease. They can also work to develop new treatments and vaccines to protect human health.

Furthermore, entomologists contribute to the conservation of natural habitats by studying the interactions between insects and their environments. By understanding the role of insects in ecosystems, entomologists can work to promote biodiversity and protect natural habitats. They can also study the impact of environmental change on insect populations and work to develop strategies for mitigating the effects of climate change on insect biodiversity.

Occupational Classification

Entomologists are classified in the following occupational grouping:

NOC Code: 22110 – Biologists and related scientists

What is an 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 and describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.

 

The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.

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