Ecologists carry out assessments of the health and distribution of organisms, namely people, plants, and animals, and the relationship between organisms and their environment. Ecologists usually have a specialisation area, e.g. freshwater, marine, terrestrial, fauna, and flora about which they conduct research and perform relating tasks. 

Work includes the analysis and testing of living organisms, the development and application of processes resulting from research in areas such as natural resource management, environmental protection and microbiology.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to ecologist:

aquaculture ecologist
conservationist scientist
environmental scientist
wildlife ecologist
conservationist ecologist

Minimum qualifications

Master’s degree is generally required to work as ecologist. However, this requirement may differ in some countries.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Ecologist is a Skill level 4 occupation.

Ecologist career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to ecologist.

aquaculture environmental analyst
natural resources consultant
nature conservation officer
environmental programme coordinator
conservation scientist

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of ecologist. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of ecologist with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of ecologist.

Organism taxonomy: Science of classifying organisms.
Environmental legislation: The environmental policies and legislation applicable in a certain domain.
Biology: Tissues, cells, and functions of plant and animal organisms and their interdependencies and interactions with each other and the environment.
Ecology: The study of how organisms interact and their relation to the ambient environment.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of ecologist.

Measure trees: Take all relevant measurements of a tree: use a clinometer to gauge the height, tape to measure the circumference, and increment borers and bark gauges to estimate the growth rate.
Analyse ecological data: Analyse and interpret ecological and biological data, using specialist software programs.
Identify plants characteristics: Identify and classify crop characteristics. Be able to recognise different types of bulbs by name, graded sizes, field markings and stock markings.
Conduct ecological research: Conduct ecological and biological research in the field and in controlled conditions, using scientific methods and equipment.
Write work-related reports: Compose work-related reports that support effective relationship management and a high standard of documentation and record keeping. Write and present results and conclusions in a clear and intelligible way so they are comprehensible to a non-expert audience.
Employ habitat survey techniques: Apply sampling strategies and employ a range of habitat survey techniques, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS), aerial photography, records and maps.
Manage habitats: Create and manage natural habitats.
Conduct ecological surveys: Conduct field surveys to collect information about the number and distribution of organisms.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of ecologist. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

Environmental policy: Local, national and international policies dealing with the promotion of environmental sustainability and the development of projects which reduce negative environmental impact and improve the state of the environment.
Business management principles: Principles governing business management methods such as strategy planning, methods of efficient production, people and resources coordination.
Botany: The taxonomy or classification of plant life, phylogeny and evolution, anatomy and morphology, and physiology.
Aquatic ecology: Aquatic ecology is the study of aquatic organisms, how they interact, where they live, and what they do.
Fish biology: The study of fish, shellfish or crustacean organisms, categorized into many specialised fields that cover their morphology, physiology, anatomy, behaviour, origins and distribution.
Molecular biology: The interactions between the various systems of a cell, the interactions between the different types of genetic material and how these interactions are regulated.
Animal biology: The structure, evolution and classification of animals and how they interact with their ecosystems.
Fish anatomy: The study of the form or morphology of fish species.
Chemistry: The composition, structure, and properties of substances and the processes and transformations that they undergo; the uses of different chemicals and their interactions, production techniques, risk factors, and disposal methods.
Forest ecology: The ecosystems existing in a forest, starting from bacteria to trees and soil types.
Biosecurity: Be aware of the general principles of the concept of bio-security and in particular, the disease prevention rules to be implemented in case of epidemics endangering public health.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of ecologist. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

Ensure compliance with environmental legislation: Monitor activities and perform tasks ensuring compliance with standards involving environmental protection and sustainability, and amend activities in the case of changes in environmental legislation. Ensure that the processes are compliant with environment regulations and best practices.
Deliver online training: Provide training by using online technologies, adapting the learning materials, using e-learning methods and communicating online. Instruct virtual classrooms.
Apply conflict management: Take ownership of the handling of all complaints and disputes showing empathy and understanding to achieve resolution. To be fully aware of all Social Responsibility protocols and procedures, and to be able to deal with a problem gambling situation in a professional manner with maturity and empathy.
Develop aquaculture strategies: Cultivate strategies for aquaculture plans based on reports and research in order to deal with specific fish farm issues. Plan and organise work activities in order to improve aquaculture production and tackle further problems.
Manage budgets: Plan, monitor and report on the budget.
Carry out training in environmental matters: Perform staff training and ensure all members of the workforce understand how they can contribute to improved environmental performance.
Manage aquatic habitat: Manage aquatic habitats and populations.
Speak different languages: Master foreign languages to be able to communicate in one or more foreign languages.
Assess contamination: Analyse evidence of contamination. Advise on how to decontaminate.
Assess environmental impact in aquaculture operations: Measure the environmental impact of a company’s aquaculture operations. Take into account factors such as quality of the sea and surface water, fish and sea plant habitats and risks regarding the quality of air, odour and noise.
Use different communication channels: Make use of various types of communication channels such as verbal, handwritten, digital and telephonic communication with the purpose of constructing and sharing ideas or information.
Create training materials: Develop and compile training items and resources according to didactical methods and training needs and using specific types of media.
Identify training needs: Analyse the training problems and identify the training requirements of an organisation or individuals, so as to provide them with instruction tailored to their prior mastery, profile, means and problem.
Develop environmental policy: Develop an organisational policy on sustainable development and compliance with environmental legislation in line with policy mechanisms used in the field of environmental protection.
Develop outreach training plans: Develop training plans for outreach and visitor service assistants, guides and volunteers.
Conduct fish mortality studies: Collect fish mortality data. Identify causes of mortality and provide solutions .
Educate people about nature: Speak to a variety of audiences about e.g. information, concepts, theories and/or activities related to nature and its conservation. Produce written information. This information may be presented in a range of formats e.g. display signs, information sheets, posters, website text etc.
Analyse environmental data: Analyse data that interpret correlations between human activities and environmental effects.
Promote environmental awareness: Calculate the carbon footprint of business processes and other practices in order to promote sustainability and to raise awareness for the environmental impact.
Organise training: Make the necessary preparations to conduct a training session. Provide equipment, supplies and exercise materials. Ensure the training runs smoothly.
Develop work plans to solve problems: Ability to develop specific goals and plans to prioritise, organise, and accomplish work.
Conduct environmental surveys: Conduct surveys in order to collect information for analysis and management of environmental risks within an organisation or in a wider context.
Control aquatic production environment: Assess the impact of biological conditions such as algae and fouling organisms by managing water intakes, catchments and oxygen use.
Advise on environmental risk management systems: Evaluate requirements and advise on systems for environmental risk management. Ensure the customer does his part in preventing or limiting adverse environmental impact through the use of technology. Ensure required licenses and permits are obtained.
Develop management plans to reduce risks in aquaculture: Develop a management plan to reduce the risks from pests, predators and diseases. Supervise implementation of plan, especially disease prevention measures, throughout the aquaculture facility.
Manage environmental management system: Develop and implement an environmental management system.
Conserve natural resources: Protect waters and natural resources and coordinate actions. Work with environmental agencies and resource management personnel.
Monitor the farm environmental management plan: Identify environmental designations and directives that relate to a given farm and incorporate their requirements in to the farm planning process. Monitor the implementation of the farm environmental management plan and review timescales.
Monitor water quality: Measure water quality: temperature, oxygen, salinity, pH, N2, NO2,NH4, CO2, turbidity, chlorophyll. Monitor microbiological water quality.
Manage environmental impact of operations: Manage the interaction with and impact on the environment by companies. Identify and assess environmental impacts of the production process and related services, and regulate a reduction of the effects on the environment and on people. Organise action plans and monitor any indicators of improvement.
Ensure the safety of endangered species and protected areas: Ensure that projects do not adversely affect migratory birds, rare or endangered animal species, critical habitat or environmentally protected areas.
Assess environmental impact: Monitor environmental impacts and carry out assessments in order to identify and to reduce the organisation’s environmental risks while taking costs into account.
Provide on-site training in aquaculture facilities: Provide on-site training in aquaculture facilities, through instruction and demonstration of skills. Provide, implement and supervise a training development plan.
Communicate in english in a competent way: Competent use of English; R351refers to level C1 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

ISCO group and title

2133 – Environmental protection professionals





  1. Ecologist – ESCO
Last updated on August 8, 2022

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