Rights: The University of Waikato Published 17 September 2009 Download

Professor Stephen Wing, from the University of Otago, is a marine ecologist. In this video, he talks about the role of an ecologist and the types of research questions ecologists try to answer.

Point of interest
What aspect of being an ecologist do you think Steve enjoys the most?


An ecologist is someone who studies the interactions of animals and plants and the environment in which they live. And so ecologists ask questions like how do populations vary, how do they fluctuate and what forces make them go up or down, and then how different species interact with each other – so which species eat other species, which species provide habitat for other species, and how the natural world interacts in whole systems of organisms. And I’m particularly a marine ecologist, so I’m interested in the interactions in the ocean. It’s a fun thing to be, because you get to go in the ocean and study living organisms. I think I enjoy all aspects to some extent, but the ones I enjoy the most are that the work is quite varied, because, as I get older, I realise that any one aspect, if you do that all the time, can become ordinary. And so being able to be an ecologist – which means you can wear very different hats, you can do very different jobs – keeps the work quite exciting. So I get to do chemistry, which – I like chemistry but I wouldn’t want to do it all the time – but I get to do some of it as an ecologist. I get to do fieldwork. I get to go diving – we have a project in Antarctica where I’ve gone diving under the ice, but I wouldn’t want to go diving under the ice all the time, because it’s awfully cold, but it was fun for a little while. But I also get to write, and I get to analyse data. I get to do mathematics, which again, doing mathematics all the time might not be the thing I want to do, but I think it’s fun sometimes. So having a varied sort of repertoire of activities is quite, is the aspect I like most.

Creative Commons
Ian Skipworth