It’s hard to describe a typical day, because there are many kinds of conservation jobs. I worked for similar departments in Kansas and Texas, so here are my thoughts about several different jobs.
Wildllife area or preserve management - the day involves a lot of work similar to farming. Planting trees or grasses, controlling undesirable plants by mowing with a tractor, or spraying with herbicide, or using prescribed fire. Managing public hunts in the fall by doing wildlife surveys, checking hunters in and out). If it’s a wetland, managing water levels. If it’s a forest, planning what parts have timber harvest or thinning each year. It it’s a prairie or grassland, managing grazing, or grazing you lease to ranchers. Repair of farm equipment, fences, water troughs.
Conservation education - preparing talks and slide shows, scheduling visits with students or adult groups. Finding and organizing materials for classes, like skulls, animal skins, posters, pictures, sampling equipment if you’re having students do field sampling. Preparing lesson plans. Filling out reports on how many and who attends education programs.
Wildlife research - preparing research project proposals. Applying for research grants. Conducting field surveys to count animals, birds, plants (so you have to be good at animal and plant ID) or even the people who use a natural resource. Entering results into computers, analyzing those results with statistical programs. Visiting with your boss and peers to discuss research needs and research results.
Conservation permitting - becoming familiar with rules and requirements for the resource your managing (water, wetlands, forests, or endangered species, for example). Reviewing applications, doing site visits, seeing if the application meets the rules and requirements. Sharing permit applications for others to review.
There are other kinds of jobs as well (like biologists who work with landowners in several counties, game wardens, etc.) but I figured this was a good sampling. All jobs require being able to drive a vehicle (usually a pickup truck or larger), so you need a clean driving record. With any job, there are usually weekly meetings, time sheets and expense reports to complete, budgets to manage, maps to review or prepare. Nearly every conservation job will involve giving occasional presentations to your bosses and the public. I hope that helps.
John recommends the following next steps:
- Consider the variety of conservation jobs out there - that will determine what your typical day is like. Read job vacancy postings to see the variety, and to get an idea of what interests you the most.
- Most conservation jobs require a college degree in field biology, field ecology, fisheries, forestry, or range management. Research jobs usually require at least a Masters degree. So consider your educational background.
- Conservation jobs also require many skills you don’t get with a college degree - managing a budget, driving and maintaining a pickup truck, and many require agricultural equipment skills to cut trees or brush, replant trees or vegetation, etc. And while many of us go into the field because we like animals more then people, you gotta have people skills too; but it’s easier than you’d think because folks interested in conservation are interested in what you like.
- Reach out and try to meet some employees with your Conservatoin Dept. Volunteering or finding a summer job will help you understand the staff, the Department and what those folks do.