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Ecologist

Ecologists study the interactions between living things and their environment. They do this to understand how natural and human-caused changes in the environment influence the behaviour and abundance of species and how interactions between ecosystems, species, and their environment influence the natural world. They may interpret and monitor ecosystems for science, policy, and land management.

  • Avg. Salary $84,998.00
  • Avg. Wage $41.93
  • Minimum Education 6 years post-secondary
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed < 1500
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Biological Scientist, Naturalist, Research Scientist, Restoration Ecologist, Terrestrial Ecologist, Vegetation Ecologist

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Biologists (2121.1) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Biologists and Related Scientists (C021) 
  • 2011 NOC: Biologists and related scientists (2121) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

18%
18%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Provincially Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Interest Codes
The Ecologist is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Biologists
INNOVATIVE

Interest in synthesizing information to conduct ecological and environmental impact studies and to prepare reports, and to develop new practices in biological research

OBJECTIVE

Interest in precision working with instruments and equipment to conduct experiments in plant and animal growth, heredity and breeding

DIRECTIVE

Interest in consulting to advise on issues related to biological processes and research and the development of new products; may supervise biological technologists and technicians and other scientists

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Duties
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Ecologists usually specialize in some area of environmental or life sciences. These include animal behaviour, botany, marine biology, microbiology, population dynamics, soil science, toxicology, zoology, or other disciplines concerned with environmental conservation and management. Often working as part of a multidisciplinary team, ecologists may conduct research into:

  • How energy flows through ecosystems
  • Relationships among predators, parasites, and prey
  • The types and organization of plant communities in the landscape
  • The impact of invasive species on native communities
  • The effects of human activities like dam construction, oil and gas development, mining, and hunting on natural habitats and ecosystems
  • The management of fish, wildlife, and forestry resources
  • The design of reserves and recovery plans for threatened species
  • The effects of pollutants discharged into the air by factories or vehicles on vegetation and wildlife
  • The effects of chemicals released into rivers and lakes on plants and aquatic animals
  • The accumulation of contaminants in food webs
  • The restoration of functioning ecosystems
  • Habitat changes after a fire
  • Fundamental questions, such as what determines population sizes or diet choices, or how nitrogen flows through an ecosystem

Duties vary from one position to another. But in general, ecologists plan and conduct or oversee field research as well as report on and interpret the results of that work. This involves following rigorous scientific procedures to collect water, soil, plant, or animal samples and to count and identify organisms or other ecosystem metrics. Ecologists also:

  • Analyze existing data or use the data they collect to understand and classify vegetation and landscapes
  • Use computers to design and manage databases
  • Use computers to perform statistical analyses of large data sets, model problems, and evaluate possible solutions as well as develop geographic information systems (GIS) layers and products
  • Conduct studies to develop or refine ecological land classifications
  • Study animals over long periods of time, noting characteristics such as population numbers, life history patterns, behaviour, diet, and habitat use
  • Study ecosystem attributes over long periods of time, noting characteristics such as species composition, spatial patterns, connectivity of habitats, and patterns of natural and human anthropogenic disturbance
  • Study and dissect plant and animal specimens in greenhouses and laboratories
  • Do environmental impact assessments
  • Write proposals and prepare written reports and recommendations
  • Provide information, make presentations, and give talks to educate individuals, schools, clubs, and interest groups about ecosystem processes and species relationships, and the natural or human impacts on these processes and relationships
  • Contribute to the development of government policy
  • Work with the public, stakeholders, or government to develop and implement conservation strategies

Ecologists may also supervise the work of technologists and technicians.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Depending on the nature of their projects, ecologists may find themselves outdoors in rugged or remote locations, or indoors in laboratories and offices. Some ecologists primarily work on computers and use data they get from other scientists.

Ecologists often work extended hours. Some projects take hours of observation or weeks of travel. Others require specialized equipment and techniques.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Ecologists need:

  • An impartial nature
  • Persistence in searching for answers to complex questions
  • Logical thinking
  • Communication skills
  • The ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Precision and attention to detail
  • Physical stamina in field situations
  • An interest in nature

Ecologists should enjoy:

  • Synthesizing information that leads to innovative approaches to problems
  • Using instruments and equipment for precision tasks
  • Supervising research projects
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Ecologists must have at least 1 university degree with a solid grounding in biology (morphology, physiology, genetics, microbiology, zoology, botany, conservation biology), organic and inorganic chemistry, physics, mathematics, calculus, statistics and computer science. Depending on their area of specialization, ecologists also may have an academic background in such diverse subjects as climatology, economics, geology, mathematical modelling, meteorology, oceanography, sociology or soil science.

Most research jobs in ecology require a graduate degree in biological sciences: usually a master of science (M.Sc.) degree, sometimes a doctoral degree (PhD).


Required Education

The following schools offer programs and courses that meet this occupation’s educational requirements. Other eligible programs and courses may be available.

Ambrose University

St. Mary's University


Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Biologist

Biologists study living organisms and apply their scientific knowledge in various fields.

Legislation

Professional Biologist is a protected title under Alberta's Professional and Occupational Associations Registration Act. This means that to call yourself a Professional Biologist, you must be a registered member of the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists (ASPB). At present, you can call yourself a "biologist" if you are not a registered member of ASPB.

What You Need

Membership requires: (1) at least 3 years of acceptable work experience, (2) a bachelor's degree, master's degree or doctoral degree in biological sciences from an approved educational institute, or equivalent and (3) 2 letters from professional referees (preferably, at least 1 from a Professional Biologist). For official, detailed information about registration requirements, visit the ASPB website or contact the ASPB.

Working in Alberta

Biologists who are registered and in good standing with a regulatory organization elsewhere in Canada may be eligible for registration in Alberta if registered biologists in the 2 jurisdictions have similar responsibilities and competencies. For more information, see What if I am already certified in another province or territory? and the Alberta regulatory authority (below).

To find more information on the certification process for internationally educated biologists, see Biologist Registration Process on the AlbertaCanada.com website.

Contact Details

Alberta Society of Professional Biologists
370, 105 12 Ave SE
Calgary, Alberta
Canada T2G 1A1
Phone: 403-264-1273
Email: pbiol@aspb.ab.ca
Website: www.aspb.ab.ca

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Ecologists are employed by:

  • Provincial and federal governments
  • Universities and colleges
  • Research institutions
  • Conservation organizations
  • Environmental consulting firms
  • Large private corporations such as manufacturers of agricultural products, forestry companies, paper manufacturers, and oil and gas companies

Governments often employ ecologists to prepare policy assessments in relation to environmental issues. Many ecologists, particularly those with master’s degrees, are hired to identify gaps in environmental impact assessments and come up with recommendations for meeting legislated requirements. Experience with the legal aspects of environmental biology is an asset for those involved in this kind of work.

Corporations often employ ecologists to help safeguard supplies of raw materials, make sure their operations comply with government regulations, and monitor processes and products.

Related summer work experience or volunteer experience is a definite asset for university graduates looking for work. Entry-level jobs often are short-term contract positions.

Advancement opportunities are limited for ecologists who do not have graduate degrees. Applicants with only bachelor’s degrees may find themselves working in non-research positions that involve laboratory tests or inspections, or collecting routine field data.

A doctoral degree usually is the standard for university and independent research positions, and may be required for advancement to senior management positions.

Applicants who have bachelor's degrees may be hired for non-research positions that involve conducting laboratory tests or inspections, or collecting routine field data. Advancement opportunities are limited for ecologists who only have a bachelor's degree. A doctoral degree usually is required for university and independent research positions, and may be required for advancement to senior management positions.

Ecologists are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 2121: Biologists and Related Scientists. In Alberta, 80% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook (pdf) in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • Size of the occupation

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Salaries for ecologists vary depending on their educational qualifications, experience, and specific field of study.

For information about salary ranges for university professors, see the University Professor occupational profile.

Biologists and related scientists

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $25.72 $48.08 $30.69 $25.72
Overall $31.46 $63.82 $41.93 $37.73
Top $41.28 $64.10 $54.40 $55.21

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Industry Information
Health Care & Social Assistance
Public Administration
ALL INDUSTRIES
Professional, Scientific & Technical Services

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

49%
49%

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

18%
18%

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

8%
8%

Vacancy Rate

3%
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Agriculture and Related Technologies
  • Environment, Forestry and Related Studies
  • Mathematics
  • Sciences
  • Social Sciences, Law and Religious Studies
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Alberta Society of Professional Biologists (ASPB) website: www.aspb.ab.ca

ECO Canada website: www.eco.ca

For more information on career planning, education and jobs call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-644-9992 or 780-644-9992 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Supports Centre near you.

Updated Mar 31, 2019. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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