Explore environmental careers.
Naturalists are experts in natural history. They study not only living things, such as plants and wildlife, but non-living things, such as minerals and fossils. Naturalists often use their knowledge to educate others, for example visitors to parks, through nature hikes and interpretive centres. Naturalists may also work for environmental organizations planning special events or write for newsletters, television, and radio. The opportunities for naturalists are varied, but all naturalists have the common goal of sharing their knowledge of the environment to preserve our natural history.
At a glanceImagine you are sitting in front of a group of wide-eyed boy and girl Scouts. They listen intently as you narrate a story about a lonely wolf residing here in Gaspésie Provincial Park. The story conveys an important lesson about respecting the environment and preserving natural habitat. As a naturalist, you've told this story many times to many different audiences. The Lonely Wolf is your favourite story, and you know it is the perfect way to introduce these young children to the park. As a naturalist at Gaspésie Provincial Park, you never find your job routine. This group of Scouts is spending the morning touring the park with you as their guide. Once you have finished your story, you take the children on a tour of the Visitors' Centre, where you have created dozens of interactive displays to educate visitors on the park's ecosystem. Each display conveys a different environmental lesson on the types of flora and fauna in the park, as well as the history of the park itself. When the tour is finished, you and the Scouts head outside to begin your hiking tour. Using your knowledge of natural history, you have designed a brochure and marked a trail specifically for young visitors. Every 100 metres along the trail there is a marker relating an environmental fact about the park and pointing out areas of interest, including the tall, tall tree where the Lonely Wolf found his mate. After the hike, the Scouts complete their visit with a nature craft project you've created to give them a chance to apply their newfound knowledge of the environment. Once you have said good-bye to this group, you begin preparing for your next presentation, this time to a group of amateur birdwatchers. Your slide show and demonstration gives these birdwatchers an idea of the species of birds they can expect to see in the park before you bring them outside for their hike. Using a lot of creativity and knowledge of the environment, you make people's trips to Gaspésie Provincial Park educational and fun. Being able to switch gears and work with many different kinds of audiences is the part of your job you enjoy most
Job dutiesDuties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a naturalist:
- Lead nature walks and tours for visitors to federal, provincial, and municipal parks and on private land.
- Guide extended excursions, for example hiking, cycling, canoeing, kayaking, and snowshoeing.
- Train new interpreters and naturalists.
- Plan and organize duties of staff, seasonal workers, and volunteers.
- Write educational handouts, newsletters, and brochures.
- Conduct surveys of parks and wildlife preserves to determine environmental conditions.
- Develop and construct educational, historical, and nature displays for visitor and interpretive centres.
- Advise visitors of infringements such as picking wildflowers or feeding animals.
- Organize and raise funds for environmental projects.
Work environmentNaturalists work in a variety of locations, including: In the field:
- Leading nature walks and conducting demonstrations
- Visiting schools, senior citizens, and community groups to educate others
- Taking photographs and videos for displays or presentations
- Working with guides or guiding others on nature expeditions
- Developing and constructing displays
- Writing educational handouts and brochures and preparing media releases
- Researching plants and wildlife
- Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, stakeholders, government departments, colleagues, and experts in the field
Where to workThere are a number of places naturalists can find employment. They include:
- Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments, including parks
- Not-for-profit and non-governmental environmental organizations
- Cultural and heritage organizations
- Ecotourism and adventure tourism, resorts, and recreation companies
- Outdoor schools and summer camps
Education & requirementsIf you are a high school student considering a career as a naturalist, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Social Studies
- Physical Education/Outdoor Education
- Outdoor Recreation
- Parks and Forest Recreation
- Natural Science