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Difference Between Zoologist & Botanist

The study of living organisms and their environments describes the work of both zoologists and botanists. But studying animals as a zoologist is very different from studying plants as a botanist because animals are mobile. This article explores those differences in detail.

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Comparing Zoologists to Botanists

Zoologists and botanists are both a part of the career referred to as 'zoologists and wildlife biologists' by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the subject of their studies is very different. Zoologists study animals and botanists study plants. Both professions involve taking samples from a living organism, but the techniques used are very different. Zoologists must catch an animal without harming it before collecting a sample, while botanists do not have to worry about their organism running away.

Job Title Minimum Education Required Median Salary Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Zoologist Bachelor's Degree $60,520 (2016)* 4% (zoologists and wildlife biologists)
Botanist Bachelor's Degree $49,458 (2017)** 4% (zoologists and wildlife biologists)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

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Responsibilities of a Zoologist vs. a Botanist

Plants and animals are part of a larger environment, so when studying these organisms scientists also observe the environmental effects of rainfall, temperature, and changes in sunlight, in addition to geographic factors, such as elevation and latitude on their target organism. The focus of these studies is often on the role of an endangered or threatened species in an ecosystem. This is where the similarities between a zoologist and a botanist end, however. Analysis of samples from plants and animals require different techniques. If breeding an animal, it is kept in an enclosure with other animals and behavior is monitored. If breeding plants, they are grown in a highly specialized nutrient medium in a greenhouse and manually fertilized.

Zoologists

The job of a zoologist involves understanding and analyzing the life of animals. They may be required to take blood samples for analysis in the lab or spend time following the movements of the animal in a natural environment. Work in this field may focus on breeding individuals, restoring native populations, maintaining confined populations, restricting the spread of invasive species or even designing experimental studies to understand the behavior of a particular species. Often zoologists are required to be physically fit in order to keep up with the animals they study. Many in this career continue with their education and become experts on a certain species.

Job responsibilities of a zoologist include:

  • Documenting the impact of human populations on a particular animal species
  • Using GIS and other technologies to track animal populations
  • Developing plans to manage a species at a given population size
  • Confirming compliance with all federal and state regulations regarding animal welfare

Botanists

Research by botanists can range from environmental monitoring using plants as indicators to understanding photosynthesis with applications for industry. Work in this field may include modifying genes to improve crop resistance to insects, restoring natural wetland areas to improve water quality, and designing experiments to study the potential use of plant compounds as medicines. Botanists may work in a lab or travel to exotic places where rare plants exist. Many state and federal agencies employ botanists to oversee collections, exhibits or natural areas and conserve the natural resources of a region.

Job responsibilities of a botanist include:

  • Collecting and recording data on plant samples in a computer database
  • Measuring environmental conditions such as light, temperature, and precipitation
  • Cultivating plant specimens using hydroponic technologies
  • Communicating results of research with state and federal agencies or other scientists

Related Careers

Zoologists have a lot in common with animal husbandry professionals, and their careers are similar because of the care required to keep animals healthy, whether for science or agriculture. A botanist could expand their horizons and work as an ecologist who studies how plants are the foundation of an entire ecosystem.

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