What kind of scientist studies dolphins?
Dolphins are living organisms, so studying them is part of the life sciences. The life sciences, however, are broken down into many fields. Scientists that study dolphins and other life in the ocean are called marine biologists.
Fields in the Life Sciences
The life sciences are the study of living organisms. They deal with every aspect of living organisms, from the biology of cells, to the biology of individual organisms, to how these organisms interact with other organisms and their environment.
The life sciences are so complex that most scientists focus on just one or two subspecialties. If you want to study insects, what would you be called? An entomologist. If you want to study the tiny things that give us the flu, then you need to enter the field of virology, the study of viruses. If you want to study the nervous system, which life science field is right for you (Table below, Table below, and Table below)?
|Marine biology||Organisms living in oceans|
|Freshwater biology||Organisms living in and around freshwater lakes, streams, rivers, ponds, etc.|
|Taxonomy||The classification of organisms|
|Cell biology||Cells and their structures/functions|
|Anatomy||Structures of animals|
|Morphology||Form and structure of living organisms|
|Physiology||Physical and chemical functions of tissues and organs|
|Immunology||Mechanisms inside organisms that protect them from disease and infection|
|Neuroscience||The nervous system|
|Developmental biology and embryology||Growth and development of plants and animals|
|Genetics||Genetic makeup of living organisms and heredity|
|Biochemistry||Chemistry of living organisms|
|Molecular biology||Nucleic acids and proteins|
|Epidemiology||How diseases arise and spread|
|Evolution||The changing of species over time|
|Ecology||How various organisms interact with their environments|
|Biogeography||Distribution of living organisms|
|Population biology||The biodiversity, evolution, and environmental biology of populations of organisms|
During the study of the life sciences, you will study cell biology, genetics, molecular biology, botany, microbiology, zoology, evolution, ecology, and physiology. Cell biology is the study of cellular structure and function (Figure below). Genetics is the study of heredity, which is the passing of traits (and genes) from one generation to the next. Molecular biology is the study of molecules, such as DNA and proteins. Ecologists study ecosystems, which are made of both living and nonliving parts of the environment. A botanist may work in a botanical garden, where plant life can be studied. What will you study with the other subspecialties?
This illustration shows a virus among red blood cells. Which fields study red blood cells and viruses? (Keep in mind that viruses are actually much smaller than cells.)
Other life science subspecialties include biogeography, which is the study of where organisms live and at what abundance.
- There are several subspecialties within the life sciences that focus on one type of organism, such as virology and bacteriology.
- There are several fields of the life sciences that examine interactions between organisms and their environments, such as ecology.
Use the resource below to answer the questions that follow.
- Branches of Biology at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrlOOJ0Tm_E (3:28)
- What is the study of reptiles and amphibians?
- What is the study of prehistoric life by means of fossils?
- What is the study of mollusks?
- What is the study of cells?
- What is the study of fungi?
- What is ecology?