Naturalists are teaching scientists committed to helping people, young and old, to gain an appreciation for the natural world. Naturalists help students to connect the science they are learning in school with the real challenges involved in protecting the plants and animals that live in the wild. Naturalists teach people how ecosystems can be established and sustained.
Naturalists develop lessons designed to not only be instructive about forests or how ocean waves affect coastal areas, but also lessons that will help people to gain an appreciation for the interrelationship between the environment and the actions of humans. Lessons may include information on how to protect the environment or how the actions of mankind are affecting climate change and weather patterns. The presentation of a naturalist at a nature center may be the incentive that a child needs to begin caring about the environment.
The job of a naturalist is not always glamorous or in the public eye. Naturalists are important team members of any organization they work for. At the Pacific Whale Foundation in Maui, Hawaii, naturalists are responsibile for good customer service as well as other duties. At this organization the naturalists are required to assist in keeping the supplies stocked in the boats and to assist with food service and cleanup duties.
Volunteer naturalists provide assistance in the preparation and presentation of nature and cultural programs. Volunteer staff members assist nature center visitors by answering questions and providing essential public safety protection by reporting incidents or providing first aid for minor injuries. Volunteer naturalists are required to demonstrate a genuine commitment to conservation and the protection of the park or nature center ecosystem. Volunteers should bring an enthusiasm to the job that helps visitors to gain a deep appreciation for the preservation of our natural resources.
Naturalists are usually required to have a college degree in one of the natural sciences such as biology, geology, environmental studies or horticulture. Naturalists who work in historical parks may be required to have course work in one of the social sciences such as history or geography. Naturalists should be good communicators and enjoy working with people and teaching students of all ages. Most positions require the naturalist to work outdoors and be in good physical condition.
College graduates with natural science degrees will have many opportunities for entry level positions as naturalist interns and teaching naturalists. These positions provide valuable training to move up into a wide range of conservation and forestry jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, conservation scientists -- another name for naturalists -- can expect only a 3 percent growth rate from 2012 to 2022, much slower than average. The BLS reports the median annual salary for this group was $59,060 in 2012.
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