The Missouri Western State University Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society added another award to their trophy case this year. The student organization was awarded the North Central Section Chapter of the Year for the 2019-2020 school year, and will attend a conference in February of 2021 to receive their award.
The Wildlife Society, which has been around since 1937, is an international organization dedicated to excellence in wildlife stewardship through science and education. Missouri Western’s chapter has been around since 2002, and this is their eighth time receiving the North Central Section Chapter of the Year award. The North Central Section consists of eight Midwest states, meaning that Missouri Western beat out all other organizations within those eight states. Missouri Western has also won International Chapter of the Year three times.
Wildlife conservation and management major Jason Kusilek is the Missouri Western chapter president for the 2020-2021 school year. His role is to be the face of the organization by leading weekly meetings, organizing events and being the main contact for many of their projects. Kusilek said that his chapter is active, and that’s what puts them above other schools.
“We’re very active. We do lots of different events,” Kusilek said. “The quality of our work and the events we take part in is very, very high.”
The student chapter meets every Wednesday to discuss their agenda, and there is never a shortage of things to get involved with. Some events that The Wildlife Society takes part in include:
Deer aging, where they take the teeth of locally harvested deer and record their age
Deer spotlighting, where they survey deer in particular areas at night using large spotlights to get counts
Quail counts, where they go out early in the morning and listen for quail calls to get counts
Otoe Creek Nature Area trail maintenance, where they maintain the walking trails on campus
Electro-fishing, where they go out on lakes on a boat, shock the water, and count fish
A field trip to the Omaha Zoo
Heading the Prairie Project, where they’ve planted trees and done research to transform an open field on campus into a prairie habitat
There are around 40 student members of the Missouri Western chapter. Their sponsor, Dr. Cary Chevalier, tells students to pick one or two projects for the year to focus on so that their work with the society doesn’t interfere with their actual courses. However, he recommends that majors who actually want to go into the wildlife field join the organization because they’ll get real-world experience that other students won’t.
“You can get a degree here,” Chevalier said. “All you’ve got to do is take the classes and pass them and you’ll get a degree. And the chances of you actually working in the discipline are insanely low, because that’s all you’re going to have on your resume: I got my degree.”
Wildlife conservation and management major Jeremy Reynolds said that along with resume building, there are many other perks involved with being part of The Wildlife Society.
“Networking, you name it, helping me build professional connections and skills, just everything,” Reynolds said. “And, you know, some of the events are just fun. You learn stuff and you get to know other people.”
Members of The Wildlife Society also receive a Wildlife Biologist certification. Wildlife conservation and management major Robert Bremer said that getting certified has been the coolest part about being part of the society.
“We get a lot more opportunities going to Missouri Western than undergraduates anywhere in the state outside,” Bremer said. “And I think that some of that can be proven just by the awards that our chapter has won.”
Some of the events the society participates in are directly supervised by Missouri Department of Conservation employees, and allow great networking opportunities for students. Bremer works there as an hourly employee.
Kusilek said that all of the applied learning opportunities and real-world experience make being a Wildlife Society member worth it.
“It’s a very, very good program to get into,” Kusilek said. “It gives you experience and knowledge of the field in general. It also helps you get experience and community service hours, as well.”