Original Kleberg committee member receives award

Image courtesy of Rocky Gutierrez.

Nominations for the 2016 Caesar Kleberg Award for Excellence in Applied Wildlife Research will be accepted through May 1. Visit the Caesar Kleberg award page by clicking on the link above, or visit http://wildlife.org/engage/awards/ to learn more about all TWS awards. 

Longtime member Ralph “Rocky” Gutiérrez used to believe that despite all the awards TWS gave, there was always something missing. A specific void.

So when the Kleberg Institute and all of its generous donors created an award specifically to recognize applied research scientists, Gutiérrez jumped at the opportunity to help. He sat on the TWS committee that developed the original nomination criteria for the Caesar Kleberg Award for Excellence in Applied Wildlife Research. Now, years later, Gutiérrez has been honored with winning the award himself.

“Receiving the award had additional meaning to me,” he said. “I was thrilled that the Kleberg committee recognized my lifelong commitment to applied research but mostly because they thought my work had actually been useful.”

The Caesar Kleberg Award was first presented in 2008 and is intended for “those whose body of work, in both inquiry and discovery, has resulted in application of management and conservation on the ground.” Recipients are longtime TWS members who have displayed sustained records of productivity in wildlife research that has been used in wildlife management. The award comes with a plaque, commemorative medal and complimentary conference registration, travel expenses and a small honorarium.

Gutiérrez, Professor and Gordon Gullion Endowed Chair, Emeritus, at the University of Minnesota, attributes much of his success and accomplishment to his luck in choosing graduate students to mentor.

“Sticking with the tenets of good science and professionalism has allowed my students and me to help contribute to conservation and better management of millions of acres of forest, game birds, and new ways of thinking about managing conservation conflicts,” he said, noting that having been nominated by a former student gave him just as much satisfaction as winning the award. “Any professional recognition can usually be traced to someone who was thoughtful and caring enough to devote the time necessary to put together a nomination package and to get others to contribute to that effort.”

Though recently retired, Gutiérrez continues to work full time on spotted owl ecology and management. He was part of a collaborative study that just concluded on the effects of logging on forest and wildlife resources in California. He continues to collaborate with European scientists on conservation conflict issues and is still researching abundance and distribution of cover types for ruffed grouse. He remains active in TWS, currently serving as president-elect of the Western Section.

“I think we [applied researchers] sometimes assume managers will adopt all science-based approaches we discover because they are TOTALLY AWESOME!” he said, “Communication between researchers and managers is essential not only for researchers to understand the needs of managers but also to understand what approaches are practical…effective communication also means that managers need to understand the limitations of research within the context of each situation.”