What they do
Botanists study the biology of plants, fungi and other related organisms, such as lichens and algae. By studying different plants, botanists observe and record the impacts of pollution and human activity, the way plants breed and grow, and 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. It is also common for botanists to present their findings in scientific reports, which may be published in journals and/or presented as lectures.
Botanists may work primarily indoors, usually in clean well-lit laboratories, while others will spend the bulk of their time conducting fieldwork, either outdoors or in greenhouses. Those working outdoors will be exposed to different weather conditions depending on the environment they are visiting, which in Western Australia can vary from lush forests in the South-West to hot, dry deserts in the centre of the state. Some botanists may even focus their studies on marine plants and will spend time collecting samples from underwater. They generally work standard office hours, however, some research may be carried out at night or need regular attention, which could involve working on weekends.
Tools and technologies
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, which are may be transported in airtight sample bags. Cameras may also be used to document plant species when it is not practical or desirable to collect a physical sample, such as for particularly rare plants. Many botanists also use a compass and map or Global Positioning System (GPS) for navigation. In the laboratory they use microscopes and various staining techniques to examine samples. Plant presses are also commonly used to preserve samples, and a wide range of reference material can be used to help identify samples.
How do I become one?
Education and training
To become a botanist, you usually need to study a degree with a major in botany, plant science, biological sciences or a related area. Completion of a postgraduate qualification may also improve your employment prospects.
Most universities in Western Australia offer relevant courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information