Becoming a Wildlife Forensic Scientist

Wildlife Forensic Scientists help criminal investigations involving wildlife protection laws, specifically crimes against animals. In laboratories, they analyze biological samples that have been collected as evidence in cases of poaching, smuggling, animal cruelty, bio-terrorism, oil spills, or other ecological disasters. They perform chemical, biological, and microscopic analyses on evidence taken from crime scenes, and explore possible links between suspects and criminal activity. After analyzing the evidence and writing a report, these professionals may be called to testify in a court as an expert witness. They may have to work outside in all types of weather, spend many hours in laboratories and offices, or conduct the combination of both responsibilities.

Work Environment

Wildlife Forensic Scientists are employed by the federal, state or local government agencies, non-profit organizations or private laboratories. They spend most of their time in laboratories. They work in conjunction with wildlife inspectors, fish and game wardens, police officers, and others who collect evidence in cases involving wildlife. Their working schedule includes day, evening, or night shifts.

Educational Requirements

The aspiring Wildlife Forensic Scientists have to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree in forensic science or one of the natural sciences such as chemistry or biology. Many Wildlife Forensic Scientists earn more advanced degrees such as Masters or PhD in related area. Forensic science programs may specialize in a specific area of study, such as toxicology, pathology, or DNA.

Wildlife Forensic Scientists should also have excellent analytical skills, a good working knowledge of how to use lab equipment, and experience with computer-based technology.

The Society for Wildlife Forensic Science (SWFS) offers exam-based certification to these professionals.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for Wildlife Forensic Scientists may rise 27 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. The average annual salary of a Wildlife Forensic Scientist was $56,320 in May 2015.

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