In brief, biology is the scientific study of living things -- a diverse spectrum of organisms ranging from bacteria to fungi, protozoans, algae, ferns, conifers, flowering plants, flat worms, nematodes, earthworms, insects, arachnids, crustaceans, starfish, sea anemones, sea urchins, jellyfish, reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds, and mammals.
Early on the field focused primarily on describing the natural history of many organisms on earth. These studies described what the organism looked like, how and where it lived, and its reproduction, growth and development. As our understanding grew and technology improved, biology has been able to investigate questions both experimentally and descriptively.
The field of biology is often divided into a variety of areas of specialization including the following. However, the lines between these disciplines is increasingly quite blurred -- techniques of study and information gathered about one area frequently shed light on others. This connectedness is a reflection of the unifying characteristics of life on Earth.
Research in biology adds to our understanding of all aspects of living things. This knowledge has also had a number of applications that affect our lives. Biology provides the scientific basis for such human endeavors as conservation, land and wildlife management, DNA analysis for crime scene investigation, paternity testing, and genetic counseling, new medical approaches for treating and preventing disease states, and studies of outbreaks of food borne and other illnesses.
- Zoology - study of animals (often further subdivided into fields like Entomology-study of insects, Ornithology-study of birds, Herpetology-study of amphibians and reptiles)
- Botany - study of plants
- Microbiology - study of bacteria and other microbes
- Ecology - study of the interactions between living things and the environment
- Evolutionary Biology - study of
changes in organisms over time
- Developmental Biology - study of embryonic changes that grow and organize the cells derived f rom a zygote into a fully formed organism
- Cell Biology - study of the structure and function of the smallest units of life
- Molecular Biology - study of molecular basis of life, including the chemical reactions of metabolism, the enzymes that control those reactions, the heritable genetic information encoded in DNA, and the nature of gene expression.
- Genetics - study of inherited physical and biochemical traits and the frequency of those traits in populations
- Virology - study of viruses and prions