Environmental Biology: Studying the Impact of Human Activities on Earth

Published on: February 28, 2024

As a subset of the environmental science field, the study of environmental biology focuses on the relationship between living species and their environments. In recent years, environmental biologists have become increasingly focused on the impact of human activities on the environment and what can be done to protect and preserve the local ecosystems.

Scientists have known for years that natural resource management and biodiversity conservation are essential to repairing and restoring the environment, but advances in technology and the rapidly changing landscape continue to highlight the need for new and passionate environmental biology professionals. Now is one of the most exciting times to begin exploring career options in this field.

Understanding Ecosystems and Biodiversity

Environmental biology is rooted in the study of ecosystems and emphasizes the importance of biodiversity. An ecosystem is defined as a specific geographic area in which living organisms, landscapes and climates work together. Within an ecosystem, biodiversity is incredibly important. Biodiversity is the number of organisms within an ecosystem, and ecosystems with a higher variance of organisms are typically stronger and healthier.

Ecosystems are natural systems that — when left undisturbed — can thrive. However, human activities and the rapid growth of human communities have harmed ecosystems on a massive scale globally. Human activity has reduced biodiversity and diminished the health of ecosystems due to:

  • Urbanization — The exponential increases in human populations have led to significant land-use changes over time, with urban and suburban communities spreading across many types of natural ecosystems.
  • Pollution — The manufacturing and transportation industries that anchor the global economy have increased pollution worldwide, affecting both plants and wildlife in natural ecosystems.
  • Resource Exploitation — Overconsumption has led to the exploitation of many natural resources, depleting ecosystems of the components they need to maintain adequate levels of biodiversity.

The Role of Research in Environmental Biology

Biologists, ecologists and conservationists are beginning to understand the full impact of human activity on local ecosystems, which is why scientific research in the field is so critical. Evidence-based research is the only way that scientists can understand the true impact of human activity on environmental biology and develop solutions to ongoing issues, such as climate change, biodiversity loss and wildlife habitat impact.

Students interested in pursuing a science-based, ecological career should prioritize hands-on research experiences throughout their environmental education. By becoming involved in research projects or assisting a researcher with their work, students can learn to work with advanced research tools to harvest data and produce actionable results.

Climate Change and Its Biological Impacts

Climate change is the result of rising global temperatures, and the impacts are far-reaching. The rapid rate of climate change has the potential to disrupt the natural ecological balance and threaten the livelihood of all life forms on Earth.

The United Nations notes that some of the most notable biological impacts of climate change include:

  • Water Scarcity — Droughts are becoming longer and more severe, reducing the amount of fresh water in specific areas and resulting in species extinction, increased health issues among humans and mass migration.
  • Increased Storm Severity — Extreme weather events like hurricanes, wildfires and tornadoes are becoming more prevalent and severe, with wildfires decreasing the air quality of vast swathes of multiple continents and hurricanes devastating coastal communities.
  • Biodiversity Loss — As ecosystems change in response to rising temperatures, species of all shapes and sizes are trying to relocate or adapt. Many are not able to survive, with some species heading toward extinction.
  • Food Shortages — Loss of biodiversity and changing ecosystems have impacted crop production, leading to worldwide food shortages.
  • Health Risks — Climate change is creating new and challenging health risks for both humans and animals. Rising temperatures combined with mass migration are leading to novel viruses that are more difficult to treat and contain.

Climate change is a complex issue that will not be easy to reverse or address, meaning there has never been a more pressing need for environmental biologists and ecologists willing to develop innovative, research-based solutions to help slow the impact of climate change.

Conservation Efforts and Sustainability Practices

Ecological sustainability is necessary for nature preservation, and fortunately, there are many conservation efforts and sustainability practices that can help begin to reduce the impact of climate change.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, some of the best sustainability practices of our time include:

  • Buying used or secondhand items whenever possible, instead of constantly purchasing brand-new products.
  • Eliminating the use of single-use plastic as much as possible and investing in reusable products made from natural, sustainable materials.
  • Reducing the amount of food purchased and wasted by purchasing seasonal products from local growers and consuming what you purchase.
  • Focus on water conservation by reducing the amount of time you spend in the shower, incorporating drought-adaptive plants into your landscaping and choosing low-flow appliances.

Throughout your environmental education, you will begin to just to do your part to protect the environment and develop ways to promote environmental stewardship and nature preservation in your local community.

Career Opportunities in Environmental Biology

With a solid educational foundation in biology and ecology, you can pursue an array of career opportunities in this field. According to Indeed, some jobs that you may be qualified for when you earn a bachelor’s degree in biology with a concentration in ecology include:

Environmental Specialist

Environmental specialists often work for a company or organization to monitor environmental conditions in an area and develop proactive solutions for preserving the ecosystem. For example, an environmental specialist working at a chemical company monitors the amount of chemical runoff the plant produces and verifies it does not harm the local water supply.

Environmental Technician

Environmental technicians often work alongside environmental engineers to identify and prevent environmental contamination. Depending on the organization they work for, environmental technicians may primarily work in the field or be based out of a research lab.

Environmental Scientist

Environmental scientists perform research on environmental health, ecosystem preservation, biodiversity conservation and natural resource management to develop solutions to protect the environment and human health.


A conservationist is not only a scientist who works to conserve wildlife and protect the environment but also an advocate. Conservationists take a scientific approach to their advocacy work, lobbying government officials and leaders to enact change by providing data-based material. Conservationists often focus on preserving a particular species, ecosystem or landscape.

Wildlife or Marine Biologist

Wildlife and marine biologists study animal life by immersing themselves in a habitat and conducting research to monitor the health and stability of the wildlife population. A wildlife biologist typically works with land animals, while a marine biologist studies sea and ocean life. Observation and data collection are vital in both ecology careers.


Meteorologists study the weather, and within the field of environmental biology, skilled meteorologists are becoming increasingly important. Meteorologists collect data and track weather forecasts, noting trends taking shape in an area. In many cases, meteorologists can offer a real-time look at the impact of climate change on the weather.

Environmental Engineer

Environmental engineers are specialized professionals who focus on creating systems that also protect the environment. For example, an environmental engineer may design an automobile plant that reduces carbon emissions and minimizes water waste during the production process. They work to ensure that their designs remain in compliance with industry guidelines and government regulations.

The Importance of Community and Networking

Within the field of environmental biology, professional networking can unlock the door to new opportunities in the field. By becoming involved in your local community, joining professional organizations, and partnering with your professors and instructors, you can uncover new ecology career opportunities in your field of interest. Whether you want to conduct research for an environmental firm or work as an environmental consultant, you will want to prioritize community involvement and professional networking.

Transform Your Passion for Environmental Biology Into a Career

High population levels, increased rates of consumption and the over-reliance on single-use plastics have resulted in a detrimental human impact on ecosystems, but there are steps we can take to achieve a better ecological balance. If you are passionate about conservation biology and ready to explore ecology careers, now may be the best time to begin your environmental education.

At Park University, we offer a Bachelor of Science in Biology with options to specialize in ecology, biotechnology or pre-medicine. By concentrating on ecology, you will have the opportunity to learn about sustainability practices and the many ecology career choices available to you.

Request more information about our undergraduate degree programs today.

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