Role Overview

Ecologists typically look at the effect that changes to the environment have on the distribution and abundance of different species. A generalist ecologist will have a broad understanding of many different species and habitats. They can identify relatively common or frequently found species. Other ecologists decide to specialize in particular groups of species and habitats, such as mammals or freshwater plants.

Ecologists typically spend their time undertaking surveys, identifying issues or potential issues that could harm the natural world, and coming up with plans and actions to prevent it and help nature recover.

Ecologists can be employed in the public, private, voluntary or industry sectors. For examples of job roles in different sectors please explore below.

Public Sector Ecologist

Ecologists working in the public sector typically work for local authorities, statutory nature conservation organisations (SNCBs) or national park authorities. Many of the jobs are related to minimising any harmful impacts of new houses, roads or other development on nature or planning how to improve the environment by restoring natural habitats.

Private Sector Ecologist

Ecologists working in the private sector will be self-employed or will work for companies whose business includes advising clients on the nature-related aspects of their plan and projects, especially where these are related to some kind of development such as new houses, roads, offshore pipelines and windfarms. Ecologists will need to assess the likely impact of the changes on nature and design and supervise schemes to reduce those impacts.

Private sector ecologists may also work for landowners looking to protect and improve nature on their land.

NGO Sector Ecologist

Ecologists working for charities or other NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) will be surveying and monitoring the plants and animals in different habitats and identifying different management approaches that can be used to manage land, water and seas to benefit nature. This can include nature reserves and marine protected areas. They may also provide guidance and advice notes for others who are managing these habitats.

Charities and NGOs may employ ecologists to work full-time, part-time or on a freelance basis. Alternatively, they may have ecological surveys carried out under a wider job description such as by a conservation worker or project officer.

Industry Sector Ecologist

Ecologists working for industries such as rail companies, water companies and energy providers will be surveying and monitoring the plants and animals in different habitats on land owned by or impacted by their employer. They will identify different management approaches that can be used to minimize harm and benefit nature.


  • Ecologist job profiles – read profiles here on Green Jobs for Nature, of people working in ecology describing their role, how they got into it, and further advice
  • See our resources page for further information including leaflets summarising ecology roles and articles covering the skills needed as an ecologist.