Ecologists have a wide range of expertise, which they often apply to protecting and restoring ecosystems impacted by human activity. Ecologists investigate, for example, how the plants and animals of forests are impacted by fire, or how organisms of marine ecosystems interact with each other, as well as their environments. Some may study how the removal or return of apex predators like dingoes and cats in semi-arid regions affect other species in the area, how digging marsupials act as ecosystem engineers, or the strengths and weaknesses of invasive species compared with native species.
Ecologists work for conservation organisations, not-for-profit and non-governmental organisations, and in the public and private sector. Many ecologists are employed by environmental consulting companies to assess the environmental impacts of clients' projects, and design sustainable practices to minimize negative effects. Ecologists may also work as rangers, and as naturalists and environmental educators.
- investigate the interactions between organisms and with their environment both in natural conditions and in the laboratory
- study and perform experiments to identify species and gather data on growth, nutrition, reproduction, prey and predators
- study the development and functions of microbes, plants and animals
- undertake surveys of fauna and flora and prepare reports for management agencies
- lecture at universities and TAFE institutes
- conduct field surveys to collect biological information about the numbers and distribution of organisms
- carry out taxonomy - the classification of organisms
- apply sampling strategies and employ a range of habitat survey techniques, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing
- carry out environmental impact assessments
- analyse and interpret data, using specialist software programs
- work on habitat restoration and management
- write reports and issue recommendations
- liaise with, and advise, site managers, engineers, planners and others associated with a survey
- contribute ideas about changes to policy and legislation, based on ecological findings.