Wildlife chapter garners international attention

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A piece of notebook paper holds the place of Western Wildlife Society's International Chapter of the Year award.

A talented group of hard-working students at Missouri Western have won the most prestigious award available to them.

Western’s student chapter of The Wildlife Society has been chosen as the 2011 International Student Chapter of the Year.

Cary Chevalier, associate professor of biology, said this is the first time in history that a student chapter from the state of Missouri has won this award.

“This is the most prestigious award that a student chapter can receive within its discipline,” Chevalier said. “There is no greater honor within natural resource management and wildlife management than this.”

This is an outstanding achievement. Western was selected from a field of 119 other student chapters across 50 states, Guam, Costa Rica and 14 Canadian provinces and territories.

Sophomore Ben Olsen is secretary of Western’s chapter of TWS. Olsen said he and other members of the chapter have donated over 1,800 hours at the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, which is a Society-wide record for the most hours students have volunteered. This is just one of the many accomplishments the TWS is being recognized for.

“We broke the record the previous year with over 1,000 hours, and we just broke the record again with an additional 800 hours this past year. A full-time employee works 2,080 hours, so we almost matched a full-time employee,” Olsen said.

Olsen said the chapter seriously deserved to win from all the hard work they put in.

“We get up at 4 a.m. and work until 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. at night just volunteering,” Olsen said. “We are not getting paid for it; we are helping places like SCNWR [Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge] and the Missouri Department of Conservation. It’s not just about studying; we are out doing things we want to do while learning and getting certifications. We have proved that we are responsible.”

The hard work and effort has paid off well; Western’s TWS has put Western above many other well-known schools. Texas A&M, Purdue and Wisconsin-Stevens Point universities are all considered to have the biggest and best wildlife programs, but now Western is the school to be recognized as a top contender.

“To be able to say that little old Missouri Western beat these schools is really cool,” Olsen said.

Western’s TWS won Chapter of the Year for the North Central Section in 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2010, but taking the international stage was a major feat for them.

TWS will be going to the National Conference for The Wildlife Society on Nov. 5 to officially accept the award. The conference will take place in Hawaii, where students will be immersed in an environment of professionals.

Todd Eckdahl, chair of the biology department, said it will be really exciting for these students to be around professionals at the conference and expressed how pleased he is with them all.

“Missouri Western is the applied learning university,” Eckdahl said. “That’s our state-mandated mission, and what these wildlife students have done has really taken that applied learning to heart. They have taken what they have learned in the classroom and, through the vehicle of the student chapter of The Wildlife Society, they went out into the world and tried to apply what they have learned in the classroom conducting service projects, engaging in professional training. These are all examples of applied learning at its very finest.”

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