Like many scientists, zoologists and wildlife biologists spend much of their time in a lab. However, they often spend more time outdoors, interacting with and studying animals and traveling to locations ranging from deserts to the rain forest. Their working conditions may change frequently, and when they’re working in the field, they must be prepared to deal with everything from harsh weather to less-than-ideal shelter.
While many scientists conduct most of their research in a lab, zoologists and wildlife biologists spend much of their time outdoors, observing animals. They may also frequently travel, sometimes to remote, isolated or even hazardous areas in order to track or observe a specific animal or species. While in the field, they frequently encounter changing or harsh weather conditions, from extreme heat and drought to freezing temperatures or heavy rains. While in the field, they must also make do with less amenities, technology and conveniences than they are accustomed to. For example, if a researcher is working in an isolated location where there is no electricity, she may need to use a generator or may be limited in what she can do until she returns to her lab.
Because a zoologist’s working environment changes frequently, he may encounter unexpected and diverse hazards. In every location he travels to, he might experience rough or hazardous terrain, and may need experienced local guides to help him navigate the area. Without this assistance, he could become lost or stumble upon dangerous areas such as deep water or steep hills or mountains. Wildlife biologists and zoologists sometimes also study dangerous or unpredictable animals, especially if they focus on wild animals. They must know how to observe and interact with animals without frightening them, and must take care not to approach animals or enter their habitat in a threatening way.
The schedule for a wildlife biologist or zoologist depends on her employer, on what kind of research she conducts and on the demands of each project. According to the Human Genome Research Institute, many zoologists work traditional workweeks in animal parks, zoos, aquariums, labs or offices. A scientist employed by a university may work a 40-hour workweek most of the time, but may work longer or irregular hours if her current project requires it. If she has traveled to an island to search for a specific species, she may work from dawn to dusk, or even after dark, to gather the data she needs.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, biological scientists often depend on grant money to support their research, especially if they work at a university. In addition to teaching or other job duties, they may be under pressure to continually propose new projects in order to continue conducting their research. They must follow scientific methods when conducting research, they must as well as meet grant application deadlines and prepare grant applications according to strict guidelines.