What Do Biologists Do?

A biologist performing a water analysis.
A biologist performing a water analysis.

A biologist is a scientist who has a specialized knowledge in the scientific study of life. Categories can include plants or animals that are living or dead that are located on land, sea, or air. They research and explain components of living things and help to create a better understanding of living organisms through the use of other fields such as agriculture and medicine. Many people confuse a biologist with a biological scientist. A biologist studies areas such as ecology and zoology which are considered practical and the “art of biology.” A biological scientist on the other hand studies the less practical areas including genetics, microbiology, and biochemistry among others and is called the “hard science of biology.” However, these two overlap and most scientists end up doing both. The term “biologist” is wide, and most biologists have specific fields of research and study.

Biologist Work

There are two main sub-disciplines for biologists - macroscopic biologists and microscopic biologists. Macroscopic biologists study organisms that can be measured and are visible to the naked eye whereas microscopic biologists deal with organisms that require a microscope to be viewed. Before specializing, all biologists are involved in the two subsections to holistically understand organisms. Biologists work in different fields within the plant and animal kingdoms. In agriculture, biologists are majorly involved in researching and developing foods that are less vulnerable to pests, diseases, and environmental conditions. These processes are called agricultural improvements. In healthcare, biologists develop public health initiatives to curb disease outbreaks while in environmental conservation, biologists work to solve environmental setbacks and preserve the natural world for future generations.Most biologists choose and specialize in one field where they spend most of their time researching and studying. A biologist's work may be extensive and can span long periods of time because data needs to be gathered. For example, a biologist studying an endemic species in Amazonia may live inside the forest for a few months. Biologists undertake research projects based on specific scientific methods and test common theories through experiments and documenting observations. Biologists also investigate interactions among organisms.

Modern Trend

Specialized careers for biologists have been evolving in diverse and complex ways over the last couple of years. The rise of biotechnology has helped application of scientific procedures to come up with improved products for agriculture, medicine, nutrition among others. Forensic biologists help law enforcement agencies to process evidence effectively for solving crimes. Biologists also advise policy makers on critical areas that are anchored on scientific facts. Drug companies also work with biologists to research, develop, and test new products as well as market them. Computational biologists apply mathematical formulae to solve biological challenges like modeling ecosystem processes while in economics, biologists address the economic impact of issues like forest protection and pollution.

Where Do Biologists Work?

Biologists mostly work in research, development, and academic fields sharing their research findings to advance people’s knowledge of living organisms. Biologists can work in governments, universities, private companies, conservation groups, non-profit organizations among other places. Some biologists also work on research projects independently with or without third party funding. They can all spend time in or out of the laboratory, and some even carry their labs around.


Biologists have done a tremendous job adding data to the scientific database of literature to enable a better understanding of processes within the field. They have also provided practical solutions that have curbed famine, deforestation, disease outbreaks, and extinction of species among others.


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