Ichthyology is the scientific study of different aspects of various fish species, including history, behavior, growth patterns, and their place in the ecosystems.
What Does an Ichthyologist Do?
Ichthyologists dedicate their time to studying different kinds of fish species, though many will focus on one family of fish in particular. They generally focus on the biological history, behavior, growth patterns, and ecological importance of these fish. Most Ichthyologists will go into the field to collect various samples or observe fish behavior, before returning to a lab or office to analyze their collected data. If funded by a university, many of these scientists may be required to teach in addition to their other duties. Some of these scientists may also dedicate their time to educating others about the field and advocating for the importance of fish to ecosystems.
Where Does an Ichthyologist Work?
Ichthyologists work in different places depending on the exact nature of their positions. Many split their days between outdoor fieldwork and the laboratory. Fieldwork often requires spending extended periods of time in remote areas, so potential Ichthyologists should feel comfortable with solitude and braving adverse weather conditions. Lab work demands these scientists to utilize advanced programs, compose reports, and share their findings with other scientists. Those working in museums may be required to present current and new research on fish, as well as publicly advocate for fish conservation efforts.
Most work full-time, though long hours or irregular schedules may be likely when performing fieldwork.
What is the average Ichthyologist's salary?
Ichthyologists, who fall under the broader BLS category of zoologists and wildlife biologists, earned a median salary of $66,350 as of May 2020, with the highest 10% earning around $106,320 and the lowest 10% earning around $41,720.*
Many of these scientists work for state and federal governments, but others work for private research institutions, colleges, and museums.
Ichthyology Jobs & Job Description
Full-time ichthyologist careers are quite rare, given how narrow in scope they are. Additionally, most ichthyologists specialize further in fish that are found in a particular region of the world, or type of water. While jobs do vary, there are a subset of tasks that are common to most ichthyologist careers, like:
- Plan and coordinate stock assessment activities
- Act as advocate and spokesperson for fish and ecosystem concerns within that specialty
- Network with other researchers, professionals, and advocacy groups to preserve and monitor habitats and stock
- Prepare reports and presentations for internal and external stakeholders, policy-makers and the public
- Collect samples and conduct research both in the lab and in the field
- Ensure data collection and recordkeeping is accurate and follows relevant safety procedures
- Connect with national databases in order to share information and assessments
- Read current research and scientific literature in the field
- Implement strategies and participate in associated sediment and flow monitoring
- Consult on and implement land and water habitat mitigation and remediation measures
- Consult on environmental and site assessments
- Be ready for temporary field assignments in remote locations
Second-tier ichthyologist roles often have more managerial components that help work-groups manage their time, budgeting, and communications. Some common tasks may include:
- Prioritizing and planning research trips
- Presenting findings and research to external and cross-disciplinary stakeholders
- Coordinating peer-review sessions for process improvement and strategy
- Constructing budgets and timelines for workgroup
- Serving as point of contact for peer-review data calls and planning
- Serving on agency working groups to provide peer-review
- Conducting initial reviews of assessments
- Coordinating fisheries and aquatic ecosystems projects
- Coordinating technical details for a range of cross-disciplinary environmental projects
- Coordinating data collection and input, interpretation, and reporting
- Navigating environmental regulations and environmental approvals processes
- Designing erosion and sediment control systems
What Is the Job Demand for Ichthyologists?
The job demand for Ichthyologists is anticipated to grow 5% in the next 10 years (20202-2030), which is slower than the average occupation.* Increasing interest in the effects of climate change on marine environments is expected to increase demand for these scientists.
What Are the Education Requirements to Become an Ichthyologist?
Ichthyologists usually possess a bachelor's degree in marine biology, marine ecology, zoology, or related field at minimum. However, this often only provides entry into the entry-level positions. A master's degree, with the added benefit of work experience, may enhance your chances of gaining a higher position in the field. However, most Ichthyologists must obtain their doctorates before gaining access to the best research and teaching positions available.
Many of these scientists must also cultivate exceptional outdoor skills for the sake of field work, and enhance computer skills to properly record and interpret data.
Other Degrees Related to Ichthyology
What Kind of Societies and Professional Organizations Do Ichthyologists Have?
Ichthyologists and those who wish to enter the field can also browse through these organizations for valuable resources:
- American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH) is a professional society is dedicated to disseminating information and awareness about the Ichthyology and Herpetology fields through industry-specific publications, conferences, and symposiums. They also encourage students to enter these fields through awareness programs.
- Zoological Association of America (ZAA) - This group is devoted to promote wildlife conservation, bring zoological professionals from all fields together, and provide ethical guidance for those performing zoological study. The ZAA also provides many professional resources for zoologists of all kinds, including Ichthyologists.
- Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) - This non-profit organization is devoted to providing a multitude of resources for zoos and aquariums, particularly when it comes to conservation, scientific study, and education. They provide various resources to keep experts updated on the latest news in conservation and public education techniques. This resource can be especially useful for those working for zoos, aquariums, and museums.
*2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures and job growth projections for zoologists and wildlife biologists reflect national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed September 2021.