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Future Professionals

Posted: January 31, 2016

The Deer-Forest Study is not just a research project. It’s also an investment in our future.
Loading a syringe to sedate a captured deer

Loading a syringe to sedate a captured deer


The Deer-Forest Study, to date, has provided opportunities for more than 60 college students and recent graduates to gain field experience doing a lot of cool things. Really cool things – at least for a wildlife biologist or botanist.

Such as tackling deer and firing rocket nets, identifying plants (from the biggest tree, to the smallest flower or lowly moss), fitting deer with radio-transmitters (around the neck and other places!), and searching for fawns.

It’s hard work that occurs in rain, snow, cold, and sometimes in beautiful weather. It’s hard work that occurs early in the morning, late at night, and weekends. Fortunately, the human mind is a wonderful thing and we tend to mostly remember the beautiful weather days!

Many of our field techs have gone on to graduate school and others have found permanent jobs in the profession. We like to think the opportunities afforded by The Deer-Forest Study helped them in their career.

So by investing in deer research, state agencies are also ensuring that there are biologists trained and ready to step in to future job openings. And so we also have to think about training future professionals.

This past weekend, members of the Penn State Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society spent their Saturday afternoon learning about how to set up Clover traps and rocket nets for capturing deer. It was a blast (pun intended!).

rocket net

Penn State students practicing how to fold up a rocket net for deployment.

But there’s only so much we can teach our students in the classroom or in hands-on experience.

The following story reinforces this point.

Two weeks ago one of the field crews was on the state forest setting up a trapping site when a citizen stopped and was apparently having a bad day. In the course of the exchange, he told the female members of the crew that they “…should be in the kitchen baking pies.”

Really?

The field crews are told to expect to encounter citizens unhappy with this research and the Pennsylvania Game Commission. We coach them about being professional and instruct them how to respond to different situations. Since personal attacks are rare, however, they were speechless.

So this brings up an important topic about the wildlife profession, and in particular women in wildlife. Historically, the wildlife profession has been dominated by men.

However, the wildlife profession is very young. How young you ask?

• The term “wildlife” was not a word until almost the mid-1900s.
• There is no word for “wildlife management” in the Swedish language. The closest they come is “Jaegareforbundet” – something about hunter-forest…
• The first wildlife degree was offered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1939.
• The first professor of wildlife management, Aldo Leopold, had only 1 female graduate student in his career.

And that is partly what this blog post is about – the importance of women in the wildlife profession.

In the biological sciences today, women earn the majority of degrees but make up less than 50% of the work force.

But things are improving. Just take a look at The Deer-Forest Study.

Both graduate students on this project are female. Both field crew leaders are female. I haven’t done the math, but there are almost as many females as males on the field crews.

The women on The Deer-Forest Study are smart. Hard workers. Get the job done. And get it done well.

So this recent encounter with an unhappy citizen was not very interesting. But as readers of this blog, please tell your daughters and grand-daughters (and great-grand-daughters!) that they can be wildlife biologists or botanists.

In fact, The Wildlife Society – the professional organization for wildlife biologists – has a program specifically for women called WOW – Women of Wildlife.

Women don’t need to be in the kitchen anymore – you can buy a pie (or cake!) in the grocery store. And we need all the wildlife biologists and botanists we can get!

-Duane Diefenbach

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