A limnologist is a type of biological and life scientist that specializes in the study of freshwater ecosystems. Limnologists may come to the career from different backgrounds and pursue different subjects of study.
Some limnologists focus on the fish and other organisms that make their homes in freshwater environments. They may observe and track animal populations. If a freshwater animal population sees an unexpected increase or decrease, a limnologist with a background in ecology or wildlife biology will search for clues as to what caused the change and what it means for the ecosystem.
Other limnologists have different roles. They may work as environmental or conservation scientists, studying and preserving freshwater environments as a whole. Others are biogeochemists, combining knowledge of biology, geosciences and chemistry to enhance their studies into freshwater environments. Fisheries biologists study the life cycles of freshwater fish specifically and how their environments affect the fish populations. Hydrologists focus on the movement of water – freshwater specifically, in the case of limnologists.
Aspiring limnologists must earn a college degree in science, but specifically what degree program is the right choice depends on what they would like to study. Subjects like biology or chemistry are popular choices among aspiring limnologists, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those interested in specializing in hydrology might look for a program in hydrology specifically or more broadly in geosciences or earth science.
Regardless of what specialization a candidate wants to pursue, courses in core sciences, mathematics and statistics are important for success in a limnology career. Laboratory work in subjects like aquatic science can help students gain the kind of hands-on research experience they will need for career success. Depending on their roles, limnologists may also need to earn an advanced science degree like a master’s degree or Ph.D.
Given the wide range of specialized job titles limnologists can hold, the BLS doesn’t collect employment and salary data for this career path specifically. The agency does, however, note that limnology has become a popular occupational field and that candidates may face strong competition. While choosing a specialization affect a limnologist’s wages, having a broad background in subjects like biology, chemistry and other life sciences can help candidates get into the field.
How much limnologists will earn depend in part on the degrees they hold and the specializations they pursue. For example, limnologists who specialize in hydrology earn a median salary of $79,550 per year, the BLS reported. Those with a biologist role earn $59,680 annually, according to the BLS. Limnologists with a chemistry focus earn $72,610 a year, the BLS reported.
The work of a limnologist combines a thirst for scientific knowledge with a passion for freshwater environments and the organisms that live there. Candidates who are equally comfortable in the lab and doing field work in freshwater ecosystems are best suited to the career. Given the impact a limnologist can have on the environment, including the strength of freshwater animal populations and the preservation of lake ecosystems, this job is also an excellent “green” career for nature-lovers.