Understanding Zoology as an Educational Field and Career Path

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, zoology is defined as,

“The branch of biology concerned with the classification, properties and vital phenomena of animals.”

Easily put, it is that division of biology that deals with everything related to animals, whether it is something as small as animal cells & embryology, or as vast and major as the actual classification of animals into categories. Since the discipline extends to a broad base of topics, it is almost impossible for people with careers in zoology to become the “jack of all trades.”

A famous joke amongst life-scientists goes,

“What is the favored means of communication among biologists?

The answer, a “cell” phone.

The broad spectrum of biological life-science disciplines covers the core subject of zoology as well. So, what exactly is zoology? Watching National Geographic or the Discovery Channel, you might have seen a deep-sea diver saying the words “marine biology”, or a guy with a safari-orientation watching an animal and mentioning things like, “ecology”, “geology” or “botany” and “ecology.”

That’s because at the end of the day, all these have something to do with the core of zoology information.

Facts, Information and a General Overview About Zoology

Exploring the Science and Its Subs

Implying, that just like the world of medical science, the subject of zoology is also divided amongst key research areas allowing for specialization amongst zoologists. However, the most critical attribute of a zoologist, regardless of the specialization, is a love for animals.

Whilst there are quite a few zoology schools relating to wildlife education, and the zoology salary can be quite handsome at times, it is almost impossible that someone without an innate interest in animals can progress in this field. To attain a bit more zoology information, it is important to have an overview of the individual sub-sections.

Cell & Its Structure, the Basic Building Matter

Thomas R. Cech, the famous bio-scientist, said it quite well. “Because all of biology is connected, one can often make a breakthrough with an organism that exaggerates a particular phenomenon, and later explore the generality.” The gist of the quote is that everything starts with the basic building-block of the cell. Hence, a huge sub-section of zoology is dedicated to the molecular and genetic bases of development.

How do cells behave in their environment and their interactions with other genetic elements in the ecosystem. The functionality of this science often determines the causes of epidemics amongst animals and helps develop vaccines to tackle those problems.

You might often hear things in the news such as “XYZ country beef exports to the European Union rejected.” That’s because the animals picked up a disease and cell biology allows for the proper vaccine to be developed. Typically cell biology in zoology might concern with topics like animal DNA, metabolism, movement of molecules into and out of cells etc.

Physiology: How Does the Nature Machine Work?

Physiology sheds light on how the individual animal species function as a whole, by probing their mechanical, physical, and biochemical processes. Topics might include the nervous system of animals, the respiratory network and circulatory systems, how do they interact and function together? In essence, the electrical and chemical systems in animal bodies.

How do they intertwine to keep the mammal healthy and going. Traditionally, the work is specialized into the types of animal species. For example, whilst some zoologists focus on aquatic life eg. Cardiorespiratory dynamics in fishes etc. Some might focus on other species of animals.

The most obvious impact of such zoology information is the development of advanced biomaterials that can be used to help animals in ways such as medical implants, tissue repair, robotic and kinetic applications etc.

Behavioral Ecology: Why do Animals Act the Way They Do?

In scientific jargon, it is the study of the ecological and evolutionary basis for animal behavior, and the roles of behavior in enabling the animal to adapt to its environment. An example should simplify it. There’s quite a few species of birds that stay some places in the summers whilst they might migrate to other places in the winter.

Well, why do they do that? Similarly, southwest of the Yukon near Vancouver in Canada, zoological scientists have tried to study that why, every 3-4 years, vole and lemming populations reach a peak and then decline. Both of these belong to the mouse family. In case you think you’ve never seen a vole before, the famous kid’s storybook, “Wind in the Willows” has a vole called Ratty. So, such behavioral stuff forms another core segment of zoology.

Evolutionary: From “What It Was” to “What It’s Become”?

As the name suggests, this sub-section of zoology focuses on origin and descent of species, their change overtime etc. Because of the broad nature of this as well, such zoology information is usually dissected into focus areas such as mammalogy dealing with all sorts of mammals, ornithology dealing with birds, and herpetology dealing with amphibians, reptiles etc.

Interestingly, because the evolutionary nature of animals varies according to regions, people have not only specialized in this field but also in areas, eg. Studying evolutionary movements across species only in the African Savannah.

So, What About The Guy in the Zoo?

One might think that if zoology is really such a specialized field, is that guy standing near the bear cage in the local zoo just another high-school dropout? Not really. Even to deal with animals in the local zoo, if not the vast jungles of Africa, one needs to study zoology and wildlife management.

If an animal at the local zoo has become sick, the gamekeeper needs to possess the core knowledge to decipher what might be wrong with the animal given the signs and symptoms. That is where the specialized knowledge comes in.

The core application of zoology is always at wildlife parks or aquariums, when managing animals on display, zoo curators who are actually responsible for acquiring the animals or even conservationist work restricted to a specific regional ecosystem. And, if you’re extremely lucky, you might just end up holding an alligator up for Discovery Channel enthusiasts all over the world!