An evolutionary biologist works at a research lab or a university and studies the evolution of life on earth in an attempt to arrive at new theories and conclusions for human and animal development and adaptation. The job description of an evolutionary biologist involves an extensive education, strong analytical skills, patience, and attention to detail.
An evolutionary biologist researches theories of evolution, studies living organisms in their natural habitats, runs tests on animals and microscopic organisms, and publishes findings on biodiversity and animal or plant behavior.
Essential Duties and Responsibilities of an Evolutionary Biologist
- Conducts ongoing reading and research in the field of evolutionary biology.
- Keeps apprised of the latest developments and publications in the field.
- Develops methods and models for study and assessment of plants and animals.
- Spends time in the field, studying plant life and animal behavior.
- Collects samples from various ecosystems.
- Tests and analyzes samples in the lab.
- Writes detailed lab reports.
- Applies evolutionary theory to field research to arrive at conclusions.
- Analyzes ecosystem biodiversity.
- Studies changes and adaptations in animal behavior or plant growth.
- Publishes innovative findings in academic journals.
- Teaches courses or leads seminars on evolutionary biology.
- Assists in recruiting and hiring lab techs or postdoctoral candidates to assist with analysis.
- Oversees work of laboratory assistants.
- Researches and applies for project grants and funding.
- Travels locally, nationally, or internationally to visit ecosystems.
Required Knowledge, Skills and Abilities
- Possesses detailed knowledge of theories and data pertaining to evolutionary biology.
- Demonstrates strong analytical thinking skills.
- Exhibits strong leadership qualities.
- Demonstrates intellectual curiosity.
- Is capable of conducting extensive independent research.
- Possesses strong writing and editing skills.
- Pays close attention to detail.
- Demonstrates patience.
- Works well with a team.
- Communicates clearly and effectively.
- Demonstrates knowledge of proper laboratory procedures.
- Is willing and able to travel for long periods of time to conduct fieldwork.
- Is capable of translating scientific terminology and jargon into layman’s terms for explanatory purposes.
- Possesses strong public speaking skills.
Education and Experience
An evolutionary biologist holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, and a PhD in Evolutionary Biology, Ecology, Botany, or a related field. Evolutionary biologists are required to write extensive thesis or dissertations in a specific subject area, and must also have several years of experience conducting field research and working in a laboratory setting.
An evolutionary biologist spends a significant portion of time in a laboratory setting, studying and analyzing data. Time is also spent in an office setting, typing up lab reports and articles for publication. Evolutionary biologists spend time traveling to different habitats and ecosystems, and often spend days, weeks, or months conducting field research in these locations. The work can be difficult and physically demanding, particularly in areas defined by inclement weather and extreme temperatures. Evolutionary biologists typically work long hours, especially when field research, travel, and publication deadlines are involved.
The average salary for an evolutionary biologist is $70,000 per year. Salaries range from $50,000 to $100,000 per year, depending on the biologists academic credentials and years of experience, as well as the profile of the institution for which they work.