Natural science researchers specialise in one of the natural sciences and study animals (zoologists), or plants (botanists), or the interactions between them (ecologists) in different ecosystems, for example coastal dunes, rivers, forests or deserts. Scientists are usually very passionate about their work, particularly when they develop an extreme fondness for the ferns, frogs or fruit flies being studied!
Natural science researchers should not only have a passion for their subject, but also for making a valuable contribution to society’s understanding of nature, and our ability to protect nature for everyone’s benefit. Scientists publish their research in scientific papers but may also use their findings to inform the management of natural areas, government policy- makers and the general public. To do this they also present talks, produce popular articles and policy briefs.
Scientists typically work long hours on their own, reading, writing and conducting their experiments. However, they frequently also have to work in teams with those in other fields of expertise, including, for example, social scientists, educators, policy makers or biodiversity managers. Scientists often travel widely, both to do their research or to present their findings to other scientists around the world.
Research assistants usually work under the supervision of a researcher who typically designs and leads the study, analyses the data and presents the results. Research assistants focus mostly on collecting data and maintaining equipment.
Some research is conducted in the laboratory (for example in aquariums or in test tubes), but most research is conducted outdoors. This might include research from a boat, research on remote islands, in nature reserves or in city parks and even in canals! To some extent researchers can choose whether they spend time in rugged outdoor conditions, or carry out more indoor work.
Scientists that focus on plants, animals and ecosystems, work in a variety of organisations, including:
• South African National Parks
• South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON)
• SA Weather Service
• research institutes such as the CSIR, SANBI and SAIAB,
• almost all universities in South Africa, where they will teach others about their field and how to do research
• consulting firms and NGOs such as WWF South Africa and the Endangered Wildlife Trust
Ardhi University, Botswana International University of Science and Technology, Catholic University of Eastern African, Chuka University, Egerton University, Great Zimbabwe University, Karatina University, Kenyatta University, Kibabii University, Kisii University, Kitabi College of Conservation and Environmental Management, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, Kyambogo University, Maasai Mara University, Machakos University College, Malawi University of Science and Technology, Marian University College, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Meru University of Science and Technology, Moi University, Multimedia University of Kenya, Namibia University of Science and Technology, National University of Lesotho, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Open University of Tanzania, Pwani University College, Rusangu University, Sokoine University of Agriculture, South Eastern Kenya University, Taita Taveta University College, Technical University of Kenya, Tumaini University Makumira, University for Development Studies, University of Dar Es Salaam, University of Eldoret, University of Johannesburg, University of Kabianga, University of Mauritius, University of Nairobi, University of Namibia, University of Pretoria, University of Stellenbosch, University of Swaziland