Return to: UMC Home
UMC LogoUMC News

North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference Examines Curriculum Trends; U of M, Crookston’s Daniel Svedarsky, Ph.D., Co-chairs Special Session
March 27, 2009

A special session on, "The coursework of conservation-are university curricula on
People involved in the special session are from the left: John Edwards, West Virginia University; Dave Schad, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; Rick Baydack, University of Manitoba; Dean Stauffer, Virginia Tech University; David Willis, South Dakota State University; John McDonald, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Darren Miller; Weyerhaeuser Company; Shaw Riley, Michigan State University; Steve McMullin, Virginia Tech University; and Dan Svedarsky, University of Minnesota, Crookston.
Involved in the special session are from the left: John Edwards, West Virginia University; Dave Schad, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; Rick Baydack, University of Manitoba; Dean Stauffer, Virginia Tech University; David Willis, South Dakota State University; John McDonald, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Darren Miller; Weyerhaeuser Company; Shaw Riley, Michigan State University; Steve McMullin, Virginia Tech University; and Dan Svedarsky, University of Minnesota, Crookston.
target?" was presented at the recent North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference held in Arlington, Virginia. The focus was an analysis of wildlife programs in North America based on data gathered from employers as well as college and university faculty.

The session was organized and co-chaired by Steve McMullin, associate department head of Virginia Tech’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences and current president of the Southern Division of the American Fisheries Society, and Dan Svedarsky, Ph.D., professor and head of the Natural Resources Department at the University of Minnesota-Crookston and past-president of The Wildlife Society.

The session was largely an outgrowth of an ad hoc committee of The Wildlife Society chaired by Rick Baydack, entitled, "Collegiate Wildlife Programs - Trends in, What's Given and What's Needed."  Major questions addressed in the session were;  Are universities adequately preparing the next generation of wildlife professionals?  Do today’s students get enough hands-on, field exposure or is their education too theory focused?  How has the academic preparation of wildlife professionals changed over the years and is it headed in the right direction?  If it is not headed in the right direction, what should we do to change it? 

In the 50 years following establishment of the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit system, wildlife professionals were trained primarily in traditional wildlife management programs at land grant universities that hosted “coop” units.  This successful model of federal, state and university collaboration produced several generations of wildlife professionals. 

Speakers described the many forces that are changing that model. Foremost among those forces are the changing demographics of students and the diversity of wildlife-oriented programs available to them.  Initially, wildlife students were almost all males who entered the profession because they liked to hunt.  Today’s more diverse students are members of the “Animal Planet Generation,” and are much less likely to hunt or have as much outdoor experience as their predecessors or to desire a career in a traditional wildlife conservation agency. 

They also have hundreds of university programs to choose from, ranging from ecology and conservation biology to environmental science, rather than a few dozen wildlife programs at land grant universities.

 An afternoon follow-up discussion session was moderated by McMullin and Rob Brooks, president of the Organization of Wildlife Planners. The outcome of the session and the ad hoc committee findings  will provide information  to guide on-going programs  and workshop topics of  the College and University Wildlife Education Working Group of The Wildlife Society.

The president of the working group is Brent Bibles of Utah State University and Svedarsky is president-elect.  "It was very instructive to organize the session and learn about the nature of programs around the country and also the priorities which employers place on the qualifications of wildlife graduates," according to Svedarsky. "I feel really good about how our natural resources programs measure up in the national scene, especially our emphasis on hands-on learning and our close relationship with employers."

Today the University of Minnesota, Crookston delivers more than 25 applied-science undergraduate degree programs and 50 concentrations, including several online degrees, in agriculture; arts, humanities and social sciences; business; math, science and technology; and natural resources. To learn more, visit www.UMCrookston.edu.