Conservation Biologist

A conservation biologist focuses on sustaining populations and protecting natural habitats, with the overall goal of preserving Earth’s biodiversity. Conservation biologists can work in all fields of biology, specializing in subjects as diverse as coral reefs, cheetahs of the African savannah, fish of the Amazon River, and the effects of climate change on polar bears. Because conservation work can involve economic issues and trade policies, many conservation biologists develop expertise in these areas. It’s also wise to have a lot of fieldwork under your belt. Some schools offer specific degrees in conservation biology, but many conservation biologists’ degrees are in broader fields such as ecology, genetics, or wildlife management.

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Conservation Biologist in Action

Angel Montoya

Title: Senior Field Biologist, The Peregrine Fund
Education M.S., Wildlife Science, New Mexico State University

In 1990 Angel Montoya was a student intern working at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. He became interested in the Aplomado falcon, a bird of prey that disappeared from the southwestern United States during the first half of the 20th century. Montoya decided to go looking for the raptors, and he found a previously unknown population of Aplomados in Chihuahua, Mexico. His work helped to make it possible for the falcons to be reintroduced to an area near El Paso, Texas.

Restoration of the Aplomado falcon became Montoya’s life work. He has monitored and researched the falcon since 1992. He helps release falcons that have been raised in captivity back into the wild, and monitors falcons that have already been released. It isn’t easy to keep tabs on a falcon, however. “Their first year they are pretty vulnerable because they haven’t had parents,” Montoya says. “Just like juveniles, they’re always getting into trouble. But I think they will do just fine.”