Are non-human animals a source of fascination for you? Do you have any idea why they act the way they do? Perhaps you should consider pursuing a career as an animal behaviorist. Animal behaviorists research how animals act and try to figure out what causes specific behaviors and what variables can lead them to alter.
They mainly specialize in specific animal species, such as fish, birds, large animals, wild animals, livestock, or domestic pets. They may also concentrate on certain behaviors like hunting, mating, or raising young. Hunger, disease, hormones, the presence of a possible predator or prey, and even the weather can influence how an animal behaves.
Tinbergen’s four inquiries, named after Niko Tinbergen, a Dutch biologist and ornithologist, are used by animal behaviorists to identify actions and ask questions.
-What prompted the non-human animal to perform in this behavior at this particular time?
-What is the behavior’s developmental trajectory? (When did the animal learn to do that, and how long did it perform?)
-What is the behavior’s function or purpose?
-What is the behavior’s evolutionary history? (Can we follow it through a phylogenetic lineage to see how or if it has evolved?)
Anthrozoology, or the study of how animals interact with humans, is a specialty of some animal behaviorists. Most anthropologists, on the other hand, are not animal behaviorists. Animal behaviorists who work with people are known as applied animal behaviorists. These experts are frequently focused with altering parts of the human-animal interaction in order to promote behavior change in animals. An applied animal behaviorist, for example, can visit to your house and study your family’s interactions with a pet in order to figure out why the pet is behaving badly and what adjustments the family can do to alter the pet’s behavior.
Animal behaviourists work pet and livestock owners better understand and care for their animals in a range of settings, including universities and research centres, zoos, animal training facilities, animal shelters, pet product companies, animal welfare organisations, and private practise.
Some animal behaviourists work in university settings, notably in biology or psychology departments, where they teach and do advanced research. Individuals who study behaviour and provide behavioural enrichment may be employed by companies that use nonhuman animals. Many people begin their careers as research assistants, either full-time or part-time.
Animal behaviourists and animal behaviour assistants may be employed by larger zoos to do research and serve as curators, as well as to build appropriate environments for animals, monitor behaviour, develop educational displays, and speak to the public about animal behaviour.
Animal behaviourists who specialise in behaviour modification work in private practise, zoos, animal shelters, and veterinary practises. Some people train animals to perform people or to serve as companion animals.
Government agencies such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service, state or municipal wildlife agencies, or the US Department of Agriculture may hire animal behaviourists to monitor wild populations or examine facilities that shelter non-human animals.
Salary Expectations and Range
Because animal behaviourists’ career paths are so diverse, determining an average income for this profession is challenging. Animal behaviourists who work in private practise or for private companies often earn more than those who work for nonprofit groups like zoos or researchers.
Entry-level work at zoos or animal shelters might start as low as $30,000. Salaries might be significantly higher at higher levels or in industry.
Requirements in School
If you want to be an animal behaviourist, you should:
In college, study biology, psychology, or animal behaviour.
Look for volunteer or internship opportunities, or work part-time and during the summers in settings that allow you to engage directly with non-human animals. Make it apparent that you are interested in a career as an animal behaviourist by getting to meet expert animal behaviourists. Many zoos and animal shelters welcome volunteers and/or interns, which are great opportunities to get experience. Many graduate students and field researchers use volunteer field assistants in the same way. Although unpaid, these positions provide valuable experience and preparation for graduate research.
If you want to conduct animal behaviour research or work as a lead curator at a zoo or animal museum, you’ll need at least five years of zoo experience and a post-graduate (master’s or doctorate) degree in veterinary medicine, animal husbandry, ethology (the study of animal behavior in the natural environment), comparative psychology, behavioural ecology, sociobiology, or another specialised scientific field, such as ornithology (the study of birds). If you want to teach at the college level, you may need a Ph.D.
You can become an associate applied animal behaviourist (which takes a master’s degree) or a certified applied animal behaviourist if you wish to focus on behaviour change, particularly in helping people better relate to their pets (requiring a doctorate).