Plant Ecologist

Learn how plants are affected by their surroundings.

What does a Plant Ecologist do?

Plant ecologists are specialized biologists who study the way plants interact with their surroundings. You examine what kinds of relationships exist between different plants, why some plants survive in polluted areas and others don’t, what causes various plant diseases, and how plants thrive in ecosystems with extreme weather conditions. Your work as a plant ecologist is a mix of botany, ecology, physical science, math, and technology, with a little human influence thrown in.

Fieldwork is essential, and you often have to brave the elements to do your job. You’re the jet-setter of the plant science world because observing your subjects in nature is crucial to achieving your goals. A career in this field can take you from Hawaii’s tropical forests to Africa’s Sahara desert to your community’s backyard and everywhere in between. So if you’re the outdoorsy type with a knack for growing abundant gardens, then this profession is perfect for you.

When not outside, you analyze samples, perform tests, and compare results against your hypotheses on a typical workday. Though you observe lots of foliage, your studies are not confined to greenery alone. Because a plant sits in dirt, drinks rainwater, and converts oxygen from the air around it, these elements also hold clues to the answers you seek.

And no, you won’t have to use your green thumb to hitch a ride to your desired locale, whether nearby or exotic. Most plant ecologists work for universities and research groups that fully fund your efforts through grant money, as long as you present your research objectives clearly in writing to get that monetary support. So develop your communication skills and you’ll be golden.