What is conservation biology and ecology?

November 07, 2023 · 3 min read · By ASU Online
Get the details on the studies of conservation biology and ecology, including a variety of career opportunities and the online degree that can help prepare you for roles in the field.

What is conservation biology?

Conservation biology is an applied science that focuses on protecting the Earth’s biodiversity and maintaining natural ecosystems. Scientists who work in this field, such as conservation ecologists, are dedicated to analyzing and reducing the human impact on every aspect of our environment. According to the Society for Conservation Biology, the preservation of biodiversity is dependent on three questions:

  1. How is the diversity of life distributed around the planet?
  2. What threats does this diversity face?
  3. What can people do to reduce or eliminate these threats and, where possible, restore biological diversity and ecosystem health?

Conservation biology requires a multifaceted approach that covers all areas of the environment: preserving current ecosystems, identifying reasons behind any decomposition and restoring ideal conditions. Studying conservation biology, you’ll learn how to promote the sustainable use of biological resources and develop practical approaches to the complex problems threatening our world.


What is ecology?

Ecology is the scientific study of the relationships between living organisms and their environment. Exploring the relationships between plants, animals, humans and their physical environment, helps us contribute to the well-being of our world. The study of ecology provides information about the benefits of preserving our global ecosystems and how we can use Earth’s natural resources in ways that leave the environment sustainable for future generations.

Within the field of ecology, there are many specialties that contribute research for each type of environment. Some of these specialties include, but are not limited to:

  • Agricultural ecology.
  • Aquatic ecology.
  • Marine ecology.
  • Microbial ecology.
  • Molecular ecology.
  • Urban ecology.

By studying this information across a variety of landscapes, we can improve the quality of the global environment, manage our natural resources long-term and protect the health of all living things.


Ecology vs. conservation biology: Differences and similarities

Ecology and conservation biology are interdisciplinary fields that draw on principles from environmental sciences such as biology, chemistry and physics, to achieve their objectives. Both studies are rooted in a concern for natural climates and addressing environmental challenges. They each recognize the importance of preserving biodiversity and utilize data analysis to understand the relationships and dynamics within different ecosystems.

Ecology is primarily concerned with understanding the interactions between living organisms and their individual environments. This study specifically examines the relationships among species and how they influence their surroundings. The primary goal is to enhance our understanding of ecological systems and processes. Ecologists conduct research to understand ecological patterns and influences, often involving theoretical strategies and experimentation.

Conservation biology, on the other hand, focuses on the preservation of endangered species and their natural habitats. This field prioritizes developing real-world efforts that protect Earth’s biodiversity on a large scale. Conservation biologists work to develop policies that focus specifically on protecting and restoring ecosystems or species. This work includes applied research and practical efforts that address broad issues such as habitat loss, invasive species and climate change.


Careers in conservation biology and ecology

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of environmental scientists and specialists, the category many relevant roles fall under, is expected to grow 6% from 2022 to 2032. The median annual salary for these professionals was $76,480 as of 2022.

Some examples of environmentally based careers include, but are not limited to:

  • Climate change analyst.
  • Environmental analyst.
  • Environmental protection specialist.
  • Fish and wildlife biologist.
  • Geographic information systems specialist.
  • Hydrogeologist.


Earn your online conservation biology and ecology degree concentration at Arizona State University

If you're interested in pursuing roles within this field, ASU Online’s Bachelor of Science in biological sciences with a concentration in conservation biology and ecology can help support your goals. Through online classes, virtual reality labs and optional in-person labs, you’ll gain hands-on experience that prepares you to solve real world environmental challenges.

Everything you need to know about ASU Online classes and degree programs

Read on to learn all about what to expect from the ASU Online learning experience. Get the details on how classes work, how long it takes to earn your degree, how much it costs and more.


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