Taxonomy is the discovering, naming, describing, and classification of all living organisms and fossils. Taxonomists collect plants, animals, fungi or micro-organisms, study them, and group them according to patterns of variation.
They study these organisms in nature, laboratories, and in museums and herbaria where there are research collections. Several million species of animals and over 325,000 species of plants are presently known. It is estimated that between a few million and 30 million species await discovery. Many of them are in the sea, and marine taxonomy is a particularly scarce skill in South Africa.
Having the correct name for a plant or animal is essential for accessing information about the species, for using it in any way, for conserving it or for controlling it if it’s a problem species. Taxonomy is often referred to as a fundamental science because it is so important to all other fields of biology.
Schooling & School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
Each institution has its own entry requirements
Degree: 4 year degree in Zoology, Entomology, Botany, Biology, Microbiology, or a related field of study. They must also have completed course work within Mathematics and another science.
Although there are career opportunities for taxonomists with bachelor’s degrees, most professionals have either a master’s or doctoral (PhD) degree. Undergraduate degrees can be obtained in Biology, Botany, Zoology, Entomology, Microbiology. Graduate students focus specifically on Taxonomy. They study Diversity, Population Biology, Genetics, Evolution, Ecology, Biogeography, Computers and Statistics.
Although there are career opportunities for taxonomists with bachelor’s degrees, most professionals have either a master’s or doctoral (PhD) degree. Undergraduate degrees can be obtained in Biology, Botany, or Zoology. Graduate students focus specifically on Taxonomy. They study Population Biology, Genetics, Evolution, Ecology, Biogeography, Chemistry, Computers and Statistics.
Possible Career Paths
Graduates may choose to work at a university or a research institute as a research assistant or technician, or pursue a master’s and/or doctorate degree to become a researcher and perhaps eventually become a research manager or leader or even the head of such a facility. Many taxonomists have careers in universities. They teach theory and research skills to students, and continue to conduct their own research in their particular area of interest.
Southern African Society for Systematic Biology (SASSB)
The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)
Private Bag X101
2 Cussonia Ave
Tel: (012) 843-5000 Fax: (012) 804-3211