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As a biological technician, you work closely with a team of supervising biologists to conduct tests, record observations, and research information in relation to the environment. You work in concert with biologists and are often responsible for carrying out detailed experiments to support research. You set up, operate, and maintain laboratory equipment, monitor experiments, while recording the results. In addition, biological technicians develop and adapt laboratory procedures and devise solutions under the direction of biologists.
At a glanceImagine you have just come from an intense meeting with a stack of notes to serve as testament to the seriousness of the discussion. You are a biological technician/technologist and your team has just been assigned to investigate an environmental issue concerning the local river. Two days ago, a routine sample of river water turned up a foreign substance that had never been seen before. You will play a crucial role in the upcoming days as your team races to identify the unknown compound and determine where it is coming from and how it is affecting the river ecosystem. As a biological technician/technologist, you work closely with a team of supervising biologists to conduct tests, record observations, and research information. With this latest assignment, your team will grow to include chemists, ecotoxicologists, and hydrologists. First, the chemistry lab will isolate and identify the compound using chromatography. Once this has been done, you can begin to study the compound's potential effects on the ecosystem. You use a large aquarium in your lab that has been built to mimic the river with its native flora and fauna. You begin dosing the aquarium with the compound, carefully noting the effects. You record how the plants respond by measuring their respiration and carefully watch the fish in the tank to see if the compound affects their behaviour or their feeding rate. In a few days, you will remove some of these fish from the tank so their organs and excrement can be examined to see how the compound is taken up in their bodies. All information from your lab analyses is recorded and presented to the investigating team of scientists as you work together to understand the impact of this new compound.
Job dutiesDuties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a biological technician:
- Record and analyze experimental data for evaluation by research personnel.
- Assist and conduct research, including collecting information and samples such as water and soil.
- Prepare chemical reagents and media.
- Conduct standardized biological, microbiological, and biochemical tests and laboratory analyses.
- Monitor and observe experiments.
- Ensure compliance with applicable regulations, for example environmental, occupational health and safety, and animal-care regulations.
- Write reports and summaries of findings.
- Set up, adjust, calibrate, clean, maintain, and troubleshoot laboratory and field equipment.
- Order equipment and supplies, including researching new equipment and contacting vendors for detailed specifications, pricing, and on-site demonstrations.
- Work with vendors to design custom equipment.
- Liaise with the public, for example answering questions and conducting facility tours.
Work environmentBiological technicians work in a variety of locations including but not limited to: In the lab:
- Conducting biological, microbiological, and biochemical tests
- Setting up and maintaining laboratory equipment
- Processing and preparing samples and specimens
- Coordinating and monitoring assessment and research projects
- Collecting data and samples, taking measurements, and observing animal behaviour
- Checking traps or nets for animals
- Making presentations to partners and client groups
- Analyzing data and preparing reports
- Presenting results to supervisors and other team members
- Preparing estimates, including costs, manpower, and timelines
- Applying for necessary permits, for example import permits
- Inventory control and maintenance
Where to workThere are a number of places biological technicians/technologists can find employment. They include:
- Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
- Colleges and universities
- Environmental consulting firms
- Self-employed consultant
- Industry firms, for example agriculture, pharmaceutical, and oil and gas firms
Education & requirementsIf you are a high school student considering a career as a biological technician/technologist, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Computer Science
- Environmental Technology
- Environmental Science
- Environmental Studies