The term zoology like so many professional names, is derived from ancient Greek. It is often mispronounced because of its connection with the abbreviated form of the word, zoo. However, if correctly spoken it should be said zo-ology and not zoo-ology.
This aside, the zoologist will most likely be found at the zoo, or better, the zoological park, as it is rightfully known.
Zoology is the particular science that deals with studying animal life and behaviour. Zoologists are specialist biologists who analyse the characteristics, structure and environments of animals, both extinct and extant, in order to increase our knowledge base and therefore help to develop practical management applications, including conservation, animal medicines and wildlife care.
Zoologists are not often present at an archaeological digging location. Archaeology leans toward the ancient and dead rather than the modern and living so it is rare that the zoologist will be needed at the excavation site. However, although much of the technical zoology is performed in the laboratory, zoologists who desire to investigate animal inter-relationships with their former environment may seek to attend an archaeological site with high yields of animal remains in order to study those animals in their ancient natural settings.
Those with an interest in animal diseases, growth and the origin or adaptation of animal species may be drawn to an archaeological excavation.
Type of Work Conducted
The zoologist will regularly perform the following types of work:
- Conduct experiments to identify animal species.
- Gather information about reproduction, growth, health and nutrition.
- Study methods of vermin and pest control.
- Identify animal prey and predators.
- Dissect animals.
- Photograph, sketch, or draw animals or animal parts.
- Operate a field laboratory.
- Provide an on site animal classification service.
In the Laboratory
Research zoologists perform much of their tasks in the laboratory or office and may be employed by a university, research institute, or museum and may be co-opted to an archaeological excavation as part of their research work.
One of the most famous zoologists is the British born Desmond Morris. Morris focused his studies on comparisons between animal and human behaviours as viewed from a zoological perspective. He presented a television show called Zoo Time during the 1950s. Morris proposed that humans are dominated by strict animal instinct and suggested that the same principles governing animal behaviour could explain human behaviourism.
His doctorate in animal behaviour at Oxford led him into research and conclusions that have been widely criticised for attempting to explain human behaviour from solely a zoological point of view. Morris’ theories have been attacked by anthropologists as incorrect and detestably simplistic. Scientists contend that Morris’ explanations are untestable rendering them outside of science and more in the realm of fiction.
Defenders of Morris credit him with bringing a new approach into mainstream discussion.
Helping to Save Endangered Species
Zoologists today often work long and irregular hours especially those attached to zoological parks. They may need to use potent chemicals to sedate or terminate sick animals. Often they will be in contact with diseased animals and issues of body fluids. Their involvement in the study and research of global animal life provides us with an expert view of past animal behaviour and a specialist to help endangered species.