Job Title: Research Biologist
Type of Company: My institution conducts research on the fauna of our state, publishes research papers and otherwise disseminates the results of that research, and formulates public exhibits and educational programs based on research.
Education: BS, Biology, Johns Hopkins University MS and PhD, University of Kentucky
Previous Experience: I was curator of amphibians and reptiles at the zoo in a major city, and later held teaching and professorial positions at a high school, community college, and private college.
Job Tasks: My responsibilities involve collecting, processing, and identifying the freshwater decapods I do research on: devising keys to their identification, and producing maps and spread sheets showing their distributions. I catalogue specimens and enter information about them into a database. I also conduct research on the life histories and other aspects of the ecology of these species. Each day I continue writing and illustrating a book on these organisms. Some of this work requires photographing specimens. I describe and name new species as I discover them, and publish the results in professional journals. I also write articles on my subject organisms for popular magazines.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is that is allows me to combine my scientific curiosity about various aspects of the natural world with a deep aesthetic appreciation of the beauty and wonder of that world. Another major plus is that I am able to function more or less autonomously, essentially following my discipline in directions of interest to me rather than in directions dictated by others.
Negative aspects are few, but one of them would probably be the modest salary involved, despite the fact that jobs such as this require specialization and unique capabilities.
1.) You must earn an advanced degree, preferably a PhD.
2.) Include in your course work studies in genetics, taxonomy and systematics, computer skills and statistics, and perhaps scientific illustration and photography.
3.) Get used to the idea that scientific research requires a great commitment in time and energy; it is not a 9 to 5 job.
4.) Keep yourself physically fit and maintain a spirit of adventure, because jobs such as mine require lots of field work, sometimes under arduous conditions.
Additional Thoughts: Jobs like mine are few and far between, and are worth pursuing only if you have an unmitigated passion for nature and a deep need to understand how it works. The most important quality for success in my job is to keep an open mind and rid oneself of preconceived notions about the way things work. Intellectual honesty is a major prerequisite.
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