Two council members win wildlife awards

By Dana Kobilinsky

Past President Gary Potts received the Professional Award of Merit from Chris Newbold at the 77th Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference. Image courtesy of Gary Potts.

At the recent Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference earlier this month in Lincoln, Neb., past TWS president Gary Potts and student representative to Council Kristi Confortin won important awards in the wildlife community.

Potts earned the Professional Award of Merit, the chapter’s award from members in the North Central Section for outstanding professional accomplishments in wildlife conservation. Recipients of the award contribute knowledge, outstanding acts and leadership over a period of several years in any area of wildlife work including research, wildlife law enforcement, management, administration or education. The award is only given out when there is a truly exceptional candidate.

Potts stands with Graduate Student of the Year award winner Kristi Confortin. Image courtesy of Kristi Confortin.

Among Potts’ achievements, he is most proud of his strong advocacy for student participation and involvement in natural resources management and The Wildlife Society. This includes presenting on topics such as professionalism in natural resources management and other wildlife related issues.

“It’s the humility of it, knowing all of the past award winners and the people that were doing this before me,” Potts said. “I actually work with some of those people, and that’s what was most special.” Potts received a standing ovation from the audience including TWS Executive Director Ken Williams after accepting the award from Chris Newbold, the president of the North Central Section of TWS.

Potts was also proud of master’s student Confortin who won the wildlife student of the year award at the conference. “I think it’s neat two members of Council were getting awards,” Potts said.

Confortin, who is finishing up her master’s degree at Ball State University where she is researching roosting habits of the eastern small footed bat (Myotis leibii) in Illinois, also looks up to Past President Potts.

“I think he’s just someone who I can aspire to hopefully be half the person he is in this profession,” she said. “The Wildlife Society has [had] such a positive impact on my life and seeing so many ways to be involved at the national level and seeing Gary receiving that [award] on the other end is fantastic.”

Confortin said she hopes other students get involved with The Wildlife Society to meet others in the profession and gain recognition for their hard-earned work.

“At the end of the day, I feel really blessed to receive an award because when I’m doing all that, it’s not in my mind to receive an award,” she said. “Even though there are really hard days and long days, it’s worth it to keep positive toward what you want.”

Dana KobilinskyDana Kobilinsky is a science writer at The Wildlife Society. Contact her at dkobilinsky@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about her article. You can follow her on Twitter at @DanaKobi.

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