Taxonomists are scientists who study the identification, classification, and naming of new plant and animal species all over the globe. A high aptitude for math and physics, as well as a deep curiosity in the world and good research and writing abilities, are required of aspiring taxonomists.
Scientists have recognized about 1 million species of plants and animals, but many more are still to be found or classified. According to University of Arizona experts, there are now 2 billion species on the planet. Taxonomists are responsible for discovering new plant and animal species and publishing their results in papers, research journal articles, and presentations.
The taxonomist’s responsibilities include fieldwork. Whether your job requires you to go to a distant part of the Amazon jungle or visit a local park, you should plan to spend a significant amount of time outside in all types of weather. Observing plant and animal species in their natural environments may offer useful information and insights, as well as serve as a foundation for future study.
Taxonomists are responsible for researching a species’ structure, mapping its DNA, photographing or drawing it, and collecting specimens. Specimens may be taken to a local or field laboratory to be dissected and studied under a microscope.
Taxonomists determine how species should be classified, investigate how they fit into their ecosystems, and categorize their interactions with other species. They provide comprehensive descriptions of species and name them accordingly. Taxonomists may also help to save ecosystems by identifying species that are on the verge of extinction.
A taxonomist must be able to lift and carry equipment to remote locations. You must also be able to navigate tough terrain such as hills. Taxonomists work long hours on a regular basis, especially when they’re categorizing a new species.
Taxonomists must excel at detecting minor features that differentiate one species from another, know how to handle a range of laboratory equipment, and have excellent research and writing abilities, in addition to loving outdoor work. Although classifying a species may take months or years, finding a new species or identifying one that was believed to be extinct can be very rewarding.
To work as a taxonomist, you must have a bachelor’s degree in zoology, biology, ecology, forestry, botany, or another science from a four-year college or university. You decide whether you wish to specialize in plant or animal taxonomy after obtaining your Bachelor of Science degree, and then pursue a master’s degree in animal science, plant taxonomy, embryology, or a related area of study. A master’s degree will help you get work in the area, but if you continue your study and get a Ph.D., you will be more competitive.
Universities, government agencies, research organizations, museums, zoos, environmental groups, and consultancy firms all employ taxonomists.
Salary and Job Outlook
According to SimplyHired, the average pay for taxonomists is $73,297 per year. Although the US Bureau of Labor Data does not provide employment growth statistics for taxonomists, it predicts a 7% increase in agricultural and food scientist positions by 2026.