What does a botanist do?

Botanists study the biology of plants, fungi and other organisms, such as lichens and algae. Through the study of plants, botanists can record the impacts of human activity on the environment; the way plants breed and grow, as well as the structure and genetic make-up of various species. This knowledge can be used to develop and promote environmental protection programs, improve plant growing techniques and identify and extract plant products used in medicines, food, fabrics and other products. Some botanists may also search for and classify new plant species

Why does a botanist do this?

The increasing human population is linked to environmental problems of gigantic proportion. This increase creates the need for more food – and producing more food has an significant environmental impact. We can only predict global climate changes through understanding how humans affect the environment. Botanists study these changes and their effect on natural ecosystems and crop production, which are crucial to the sustainability of our future. Botanists can also use their knowledge to advise policy makers on legislation for environmental protection and on ways to save priceless natural areas.

How does a botanist do their job?

Botanists use a variety of equipment depending on whether they are working in the field or in a laboratory. When in the field they may use secateurs, trowels or other hand tools to collect plant samples. Cameras may also be used to document plant species when it is not ideal to collect a physical sample of rare species. In the laboratory, they use microscopes and various staining techniques to examine samples. Plant presses are also commonly used to preserve samples. A vast number of reference materials are often used to help identify samples.

Where do botanists work?

Botanists can work in a variety of different climates or locations depending on where they are conducting their research or fieldwork, from rainforests to deserts or even underwater. This will also be complemented by work in a laboratory.

Tertiary study

You could begin with a Bachelor of Science with a major in Plant Science.

You could then go on to continue your studies in areas including:

Companies that employ botanists

Botany graduates are employed by:

  • Private sector consultants
  • The mining industry
  • Government departments (such as Agriculture and Food, Environment and Conservation)
  • Botanic gardens and research agencies that are interested in the environment, conservation, restoration and horticulture
  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning