There is a huge array of sub-disciplines or fields of biology – all up more than 60. Many have been around for hundreds of years, whilst others are far newer and are often developing very rapidly. This article introduces you to many of the main fields of biology: zoology, botany, microbiology, genetics, biochemistry and ecology.
Fields of biology such as zoology and genetics can be very broad topics and contain many specializations within each field. For example, an ethologist is an animal biologist that studies animal behavior. An ecologist, who looks at how organisms interact with each other and the environment, may specialize in marine ecology, ecophysiology, population ecology or a number of other topics within ecology.
Botany is the field of biology that studies plants. It covers many similar aspects as animal biology but with the obvious focus on plants. The act of studying plants, however, is far different from studying animals and is in many ways a lot easier. One considerable difference is the fact that plants don’t tend to move, so it often easier to locate and examine species in the wild, whereas an animal will often steer clear of human activity.
The total number of microscopic organisms or microbes presently on Earth far outweighs the sum of all animals and plants that have ever lived. In the human body alone there are more than one trillion virus cells and, combined with bacterial cells, they far outnumber our own cells within our bodies.
Microbiology is a field of biology that studies microscopic organisms or microbes such as bacteria, archaea, and protists. This field of biology can be broken into sub-disciplines, often defined by certain microbes, for example, bacteriology is the study of bacteria and mycology is the study of fungi.
Due to the difficulty in isolating a single microscopic species, the majority of bacteria and other microbial species are yet to be identified. Microbiology is a growing field of study, however, and new technology and developments within the field are helping to identify new species all the time.
When life is broken down to its lowest level of organisation, at the root of it all is thousands of chemical reactions. Biochemistry is the field of biology that focuses on the chemical reactions that make life possible. An understanding of molecular fields such as genetics and biochemistry is the best way to truly understand how life is possible and get to the core of how everything works within living things.
Ecology looks at the factors that influence the final product of a system such as an ecosystem or a population of a species. Depending on the focus of the study, ecology can be interested in the interaction of life and the environment at a number of levels.
The study of ecology breaks the world and ecosystems down into various levels of organization such as individual organisms, populations, communities of organisms and entire ecosystems. A group of individuals from the same species make a population, a collection of populations of different species make a community, environmental factors plus the community make an ecosystem, the ecosystems of a large area (such as North America) make a biome, and all the biomes around the world contribute to the overall functioning of the biosphere (Earth).
Last edited: 31 August 2020
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