A fisheries biologist is a scientist who studies fish in native and nonnative habitats. This type of professional investigates population numbers, migration patterns, breeding statistics, and ecological impacts. Many fisheries biologists specialize by studying a specific lake or type of fish. They generally spend most of their time in the field, observing conditions and gathering samples of soil and water, as well as living plant and fish specimens. In specially designed laboratories, scientists analyze field samples to determine pollution levels and other factors that could affect an ecosystem. A fisheries biologist might work for a government agency, private research institution, nonprofit environmental group, or a fish hatchery.
Large fish populations can be difficult to study thoroughly, especially if they are widespread in a lake, river, or stream. A skilled fisheries biologist usually spends months or even years studying a single species, putting in hours of field research each day. He or she may want to determine changes in population numbers or behaviors over time. By observing animal behaviors, including eating and mating habits, a fisheries biologist can become familiar enough with a type of fish to predict future events. He or she may use such knowledge to direct activity at a hatchery or determine the best times of year to fish for a certain species.
Many professionals specialize in studying the effects of other species, pollution, or climate change on a fish population over time. They collect living and nonliving samples from a given area and carefully analyze them in a laboratory. Biologists employ sophisticated laboratory equipment such as microscopes to study samples at the molecular level. Highly trained experts might incorporate their knowledge of genetics to explain evolutionary changes in a fish species.
Fisheries biologists commonly organize their findings and write detailed scientific papers about their results. They may publish informational journals to improve the general understanding of a fish, or promote the importance of environmental or species protection efforts. They may also write brochures and books about a certain lake or fish to better inform tourists, anglers, and other biological scientists about an area. Many biologists become actively involved in public efforts to raise awareness about pollution control and sustainability.
In order to work as a fisheries biologist, and individual is typically required to obtain at least a bachelor's degree in general biology, limnology, aquatic biology, zoology, or a similar scientific discipline. Bachelor's degree holders can usually work with a team of field researchers to gather and analyze samples. Individuals who hold master's or doctoral degrees in fisheries biology can conduct independent research studies and lead teams on important projects.