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Natural Resources Specialist, Department of Parks, Montgomery County, MD

Todd (Teddy) Fisher Jr.is currently a natural resources specialist (wildlife ecologist) with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Department of Parks, in Montgomery County, MD. His main responsibility is to help develop and implement the comprehensive county-wide wildlife ecology work program on park property, focusing mainly on white-tailed deer management. He helps to implement a population monitoring program, managed hunting program, and park police-based sharpshooting program, all focused on white-tailed deer in the park and in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. He also assists the nuisance wildlife program as needed to address various issues regarding raccoons, beavers, Canada geese, coyotes, and groundhogs in the park.

Degree Earned

B.S. Wildlife and Fisheries Science, 2014

Q: What was your educational path to Penn State and to degree completion?

Ever since I was young, I knew I wanted to attend Penn State. I was accepted to attend Penn State University Park campus for the summer session, known as the LEAP Program. I started classes two weeks after graduating from Red Lion Senior High School in 2010.  I graduated in May 2014 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science, Wildlife Option.

Q: What additional training or education have you completed since earning your baccalaureate degree?

At this time, I really haven’t done much in the way of additional training or education other than gaining work experience. I was fortunate to be hired into my current full-time career position with a bachelor’s degree after about 1.5 years of temporary positions with the agency I currently work for as well as a technician on a white-tailed deer study with Ball State University in Indiana. I am currently considering the possibility of pursuing an online graduate program or at least some courses in GIS while continuing to work in my current position.

Q: What were some of your activities as a student?

  • Learning Edge Academic Program (LEAP) – This summer session program gave me a head start on my college credits and helped me acclimate to college life with only a few thousand students on campus and a lighter course load, as opposed to the 40,000+ students and a full course load in the fall semester.
  • EARTH House – This special living option and club for students enrolled in the College of Agricultural Sciences allowed me to live in North Halls, suite-style dorms, my freshman year.
  • The Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society – I attended a few meetings my first two years but didn’t really get involved until my junior year. This was a great club to be involved in and helped me meet a lot of my closest friends during my college career, as well as contacts and experiences that have helped me professionally. There were guest speakers from across the wildlife field, and many volunteering and networking opportunities including attending The Wildlife Society National Conference and Northeast Conclave.
  • THON – I spent one year on a Rules and Regulations Committee for Penn State’s IFC Dance Marathon.
  • Penn State Deer Research Center – I worked at the captive white-tailed deer research facility for 3.5 years while I was at Penn State.  I gained valuable hands-on experience working with and handling white-tailed deer, and chemical immobilization, as well as data collection and research experience.

Q: How did you get interested in the major you selected?

Growing up going to Penn State football games as early as four years of age, my dream, I decided at an early age that I wanted to attend Penn State.  I began looking into the educational programs at Penn State in my high school sophomore year. I visited the architecture program and looked into the engineering program, but quickly realized those degrees weren't for me. That's when I noticed the Wildlife and Fisheries Science degree on the Penn State website.  Growing up as an outdoorsman hunting and fishing, I was immediately interested. I started to research the field and types of jobs available with a major like this and realized I could get paid to do a lot of the things that I grew up doing for fun and knew that's what I wanted to do.

Q: Was there an activity or course at Penn State that was particularly important to you?

Working at the Penn State Deer Research Center and being involved in The Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society were two really important activities for me, both professionally and personally. I gained a lot of valuable experience and connections through both experiences that led to more opportunities. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today in my career without either of those activities.

Q: What advice do you give someone looking to get a job with a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science?

One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to not give up, and be dedicated to doing anything you can to gain more experience and opportunities. It’s a competitive field and you have to be willing to go the extra mile to get where you want to be. Start as early as you can with networking and internships or volunteer opportunities to gain experience. Try to not only get to know as many people as you can, but make an impression on them. It’s a small world but in the wildlife field, it’s even smaller. You never know who you might meet that could be a valuable connection for you down the road or might hear of a job that they know you might interest you. Most of the job offers I have received and accepted have come through networking in various volunteer positions and jobs, and attending conferences and events that put me out there to meet new people and establish connections.

Q: What do you like most about your job?

The biggest thing for me is that every day I go to work doesn’t feel like I’m going to a job. I get paid to do a lot of things that I grew up doing for fun and I get to work in some pretty awesome places. Every day is something different and I never know what I’m going to get into that day or what I am going to see. I also really enjoy the human dimensions aspect of my work in an urban area.

Q: What advice do you have for current students?

Two things I wish I had done while I was at Penn State would be getting involved in undergraduate research earlier in my college career and taking a GIS course. Experience in research with a professor is a big plus when it comes time to look at graduate school and so does GIS experience. GIS is becoming more and more an integral part of the wildlife field and unfortunately, I don’t have much experience in it. I am currently trying to learn as much as I can about it from my co-workers but having a class in it would have been a great foundation.