PLANT SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Make a difference in developing new food crops and technologies which will help feed an ever-growing global population. Help find urgently needed solutions to the environmental challenges we face. New pests and diseases are appearing all the time and we need scientists to help us fight them.

As well as those listed below, other related jobs include Landscape Ecologist, Plant Health Inspector, Lecturer and Consultant.

Botanist/Botanical Researcher
What they do: Botanists (sometimes known as plant biologists) study all forms of plant life both in the natural environment and in laboratories. They have many different job roles, as their work is used in a variety of areas, including environmental conservation, agriculture, forestry, horticulture, medicine, biotechnology and food science. A botanist’s work could include identifying, classifying, recording and monitoring plant species, or studying the effects of pollution on plant life.

Career path: For most jobs in botany you will need a degree. Relevant subjects include botany, plant biology, plant science, environmental science and ecology.

Where they work: You could find work as a botanist in areas such as:

government research institutes
universities
conservation organisations
agriculture and horticulture
botanical gardens and collections, eg the Royal Horticultural Society, which has a herbarium of cultivated plants
the food industry
More info: Botanical Society of the British Isles, Careers Advice

Entomologist
What they do: Entomology is the scientific study of insects. Insects and other invertebrate animals have a great influence on the state of the environment, especially the available food supply and the spreading of diseases. Harmful insects, mites, nematodes and other pests can spoil or destroy garden plants and crops or stored food. Some pests spread diseases among plants, livestock and human beings.

Beneficial insects, mites and nematodes can be used to control some harmful plant pests and weeds. Insects, especially bees, help to pollinate flowers and are vital for the production of many fruits and vegetables. Insects and other invertebrate animals play an important role in breaking down and recycling dead plant material.

Entomologists and other zoologists are mainly employed as researchers or consultants who work in a variety of fields aimed at tackling crop or garden pests and the insects and other animals that spread plant, human and animal diseases. Entomologists are also concerned with the conservation of our insect fauna and their habitats.

Career path: In order to pursue entomology as a career in the UK, you will need a good degree in a science subject (usually biological sciences) and then take a relevant MSc or PhD.

Where they work: Most entomologists and other zoologists are employed by various parastatal and government organisations, such as the Agricultural Research Council, Medical Research Council, museums, universities and national and local government departments concerned with agriculture, horticulture, health, conservation and environmental protection.

In the private sector they are mainly employed by agricultural estates, pest control contractors and agrochemical companies that develop and manufacture insecticides, and by environmental consultants, County Wildlife Trusts and other environmental charities.

The Royal Horticultural Society employs entomologists who have done some interesting work, like mapping the spread across the country of new garden plant pests, such as rosemary beetle, berberis sawfly, hemerocallis gall midge and lily beetle, from the first time they were spotted in Britain. They also advise gardeners on a wide range of animal-related garden problems, as well as promoting gardens as places where other wildlife can be encouraged.

More info: The Royal Entomologist Society

Landscape Scientist
What they do: Landscape scientists are landscape architects who investigate and explore the geology, wildlife and natural features that make up the landscape. Working closely with professionals like landscape architects, civil engineers and planners, landscape scientists focus on the physical and biological issues at the heart of landscape design and management.

Landscape scientists often oversee construction work and apply scientific expertise to practical problems.

Career path: Landscape science is a chartered profession like architecture, accountancy or surveying. In order to pursue a career in the profession, you will need a degree followed by a period of study at work in order to qualify fully as a chartered landscape scientist.

You will also need to be a member of the Landscape Institute, the professional body, qualifying authority and regulator for the landscape architecture profession.

Where they work: Most landscape scientists work for environmental consultancies within landscape practices. However, some are employed as ecologists by local authorities. In the education sector a small number of scientists work in research, teaching or lecturing.

More info: http://www.iwanttobealandscapearchitect.com

Plant Breeder
What they do: Changing growing conditions, consumer demands and shifts in farming and environmental policies means there is a constant need for new plant varieties. Plant breeders/geneticists apply a range of techniques to produce new and improved varieties of plants for cultivation and use.

The work combines the traditional work of crossing existing plants and selecting new strains, with the expertise of the plant geneticist and biotechnologist. Roles vary between academic, research and commercial settings.

Career path: A good honours or postgraduate degree is required to become a plant breeder. Relevant degree subjects include biology, genetics, molecular biology, biotechnology, botany and plant science, agriculture, crop and plant science or horticulture.

Where they work: The plant breeding sector employs around 5,000 people, with most commercial plant breeding taking place within the private sector. Plant breeding work is also carried out in a limited number of research institutes.

More info: British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB)

Plant Pathologist
What they do: The world’s food and garden plant growers are under increasing pressure to become more efficient with less environmental impact. The work of plant pathologists is key to achieving this, as it deals with the understanding of how plants react to pests and diseases and helps to develop ways to fight them.

Career path: Courses available in plant pathology, plant biology or plant sciences include BSc and post graduate degrees, as well as long distance learning opportunities.

Where they work:

University departments (ie teaching and research)
Government funded research institutes
Commercial plant breeding companies
Within the agrochemical advisory/diagnostics sector
The Royal Horticultural Society

More info: British Society for Plant Pathology , SCRI (Scottish Crop Research Institute)

Plant Propagator
What they do: Plant propagators create new plants from old by collecting seeds, taking cuttings or through micropropagation: propagating new plants from just a few cells of parent plants in a laboratory.

Career path: Propagation techniques can be taught on the job at nurseries, or learnt as part of a wide range of horticultural courses, including degrees, National Diplomas and distance learning.

Where they work: Nurseries, research bodies (eg Central Science Laboratory), commercial plant breeders.

More info: International Plant Propagators Society

Related job titles: Micropropagator

Soil Scientist
What they do: Soil is vital for food production, supporting plant and animal life and providing a foundation for building. A soil scientist provides information about the chemistry, biology and physics of soils to help with everything from landscape design to food production and environmental quality.

Career path: To become a soil scientist, you’ll need a degree in a science or science-related discipline such as agriculture, archaeology, biology, botany, chemistry, soil science etc. In the UK, the University of Aberdeen is currently the only institution offering an undergraduate degree programme in plant and soil science.

Where they work: The largest numbers of soil science opportunities are available within specialist research centres such as the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER) and others which are funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Soil scientists can also be found researching and teaching in higher education institutions. Other institutes include the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) and the National Soil Resources Institute (NSRI). Jobs are sometimes available in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Environment Agency (EA), Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and in local government.

The Royal Horticultural Society also employs soil scientists.

More info: Prospects

Taxonomist
What they do: Taxonomy is the science of identifying and naming species and organising them into systems of classification. Taxonomists are the scientists that do taxonomy. Their work is vital in the fight to conserve biodiversity.

The names taxonomists give to species don’t just tell us what they are called, but also tell us about how they are related to one another. This can help us to identify patterns in nature, and decide how best to protect the individual species that are part of the world’s biodiversity. Taxonomists use their knowledge to help produce lists of names and identification tools in the form of species databases, field guides, collections and reference works.

These tools help conservationists understand biodiversity and develop ways to protect it.

Career path: Taxonomy in horticulture is mostly related to plants or insects. Plant taxonomy courses are available at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels. Other horticultural degrees will include elements of taxonomy within them.

Where they work: Research institutions, councils, conservation agencies, the Royal Horticultural Society, botanic gardens, the Natural History Museum.

More info: The Natural History Museum , HORTAX, the Horticultural Taxonomy Group

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