How does a biologist study life?
By determining what methods would be most appropriate, feasible, and by looking at what research has previously been completed.
There are several considerations a biologist makes when deciding how to study life. They determine what methods would be most appropriate, feasible, and by look at what research has previously been completed.
After lots and lots of reading, a biologist hopefully has enough knowledge on the topic to formulate relevant questions that will direct his/her study. Once a question or general research direction has been chosen, a biologist will need to determine the best way to answer those questions.
For example, a biologist needs to decide if the work is better suited to a lab or the field or an experiment. Studying how porpoises respond to seismic drilling would likely involve field work. Studying how English ivy responds to increased temperatures would likely involve an experiment in a laboratory. The question itself is often the most important factor that determines the study. Ideally, your methods should be the best possible way of answering your question.
The biologist may also be restrained by issues of practicality, such as how much time they want to devote to this particular study. To understand how stroke victims respond to a treatment type could take years or decades. More data is always better, but the biologist could be looking for a study that lasts years and not decades.
Cost is another important factor that often limits biologists. Hiring staff, equipment, materials, and permits all cost money and funds are never endless.
Finally, a biologist will also look at what other studies have been done. If a biologist wants to determine how stress levels change in monkeys that are observed by ecotourists, they may decide to make changes to their study if they determine there are many recent publications about this question.