Wildlife ecology is a field that studies animals, especially animal populations, and seeks to identify ways in which those populations can be helped. Some wildlife ecology programs may focus specifically on how those animals interact with humans, while others will study all aspects of animals. The main objective of an ecologist working in this setting is to promote healthy animal conservation. To do this, the ecologist will not only concern himself with animals, but also the habitats in which they live.
Those involved in a wildlife ecology career will often pursue disciplines in education, research and conservation. These fields could involve a substantial amount of time dealing with the general public. They can also involve a great deal of time working in the field, collecting data or even conducting tours. Other career choices in wildlife ecology include law enforcement and public relations. Some may use a degree in wildlife ecology to pursue an advanced degree in veterinary medicine. Many of those in the wildlife ecology field also stay in school to pursue advanced degrees due to the highly competitive environment over the available jobs.
Wildlife ecologists pursuing research will look at the sustainability of species. Primary areas of concern will be habitat destruction, competition from invasive species, and human interference. Some wildlife ecologists will focus on what constitutes a healthy population, and even recommend ways of controlling the population so that it does not become unhealthy. Those populations that fall under a certain number may need some help in recovering, including special legal protections.
For those animals that do need special protection, ecologists may recommend inclusion on the endangered or threatened species list. Often, this will mean access to additional funding in order to come up with a plan or programs to protect the remaining animals. These types of programs have been successful in helping a number of different species. The endangered species program has been credited with the return of the bald eagle and the American alligator.
In some cases, those involved in wildlife ecology will examine sustainable hunting practices, and create rules and regulations for that hunting. This is why there are hunting seasons, which help regulate the population, as well as hunting tags, which ensure only so many animals are taken legally during that season. To determine how many animals can be hunted, the ecologist will collect data, including doing aerial surveys of animal habitats, and keeping track of how successful hunts are.