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Unfortunately, don't expect to see your name in lights or on the cover of US Weekly if you opt for this career. Ecologists are the foot soldiers in the environmental army, the stage hands working behind the scenes. That's to say they are often overlooked and underestimated. But they do play a critical role in understanding and combating some of the globe's biggest problems, like climate change, species extinction, and dwindling natural resources.

For these scientists, the work tends to be the reward itself. You might play an integral role in restoring the population of wildlife after a forest fire, but don't expect Mr. Raccoon to come up and thank you for it. He can't talk, you know. Don't believe everything you see on the Disney Channel.

The lack of fame isn't to say that ecologists aren't behind some major cultural icons of our decade. Heck, the entire environmental movement—that includes you, Al Gore—owes a lot to ecologists. If it weren't for those researchers crawling around in the mud to discover dwindling numbers of species, environmentalists might not even know the depths of the problems facing the globe. Thanks to the ecologists of the past few decades who noticed dwindling air quality samples, we've started to combat pollution by engineering hybrid cars. Those ecologists who mapped dwindling aquatic life in local rivers got us on the road to utilizing canvas shopping bags during our errands.