What does it take to win Chapter of the Year?

Past-president of the Texas A&M – Kingsville Student Chapter, Aidan Flores, accepts the Student Chapter of the Year Award from President Gary Potts at The Wildlife Society’s 22nd Annual Conference in Winnipeg.

Nominations for the 2016 Chapter and Student Chapter of the Year Awards will be accepted through May 1. Visit each award’s respective page on wildlife.org by clicking on them above, or visit or our general awards page to learn more about all TWS awards.

The whole is only as good as the sum of its parts, the old adage goes. The same holds true for The Wildlife Society, and for this reason, each year we recognize our most outstanding organizational units.

The Chapter, Student Chapter and Student Chapter Advisor of the Year Awards are presented to those which have demonstrated exceptional success in achieving their goals, thereby furthering the Society’s mission as a whole. The Chapter and Student Chapter of the Year Awards were first presented in 1994, and the Student Chapter Advisor of the Year Award was first presented 10 years later in 2004.

“It was a really huge honor,” said Eric Maichak, president of the Wyoming Chapter last year when they won the 2015 Chapter of the Year Award. “For our membership, especially those who have been involved for a long time, it meant as much to them as it did me because we’ve had so many people put in so much work over the years. People like Bob Lanka and Tom Ryder who have been involved with the Society for a long, long time I think it probably meant even more to them.”

Maichak says there are a number of reasons his chapter was recognized with the award, among them being their strong communication channels, their science committee which collaborates with state and federal agencies to act as consultants, and their fellowship program which is awarded to one student each year and gives them the opportunity to choose individuals and agencies they would like to work with. Maichak expects that the chapter will weigh in on the proposed grizzly bear delisting in the near future and encourages other TWS chapters to be persistent in their pursuit of the Chapter of the Year Award.

Student chapters, however, are understandably a bit different.

Dr. Scott Henke is the advisor to the Texas A&M – Kingsville Student Chapter, the reigning Student Chapter of the Year Award winner. Henke feels that hosting the Western Wildlife Conclave last year held significant weight in the chapter’s consideration for the award. But he noted several other reasons, including a number of successful campaigns and research projects on campus. One particular research project that the chapter did dealt with squirrels on campus.

“One of the things they found, which I thought was pretty interesting, was kind of an ecological trap for the squirrels,” Henke recalls. “At Christmastime, when the campus would put out Christmas lights and cause the squirrels to forage [later]… when the Christmas lights came on it was bright enough that the squirrels kept foraging but they got caught by the cats, because the cats would come out at night.”

Henke has been involved with the student chapter since its inception and has seen it win this award five times. Some of the most important things, he says, are staying active, finding new things to do, and finding where the students’ interests lie.

“This is the pinnacle of what we try to accomplish,” he said. “Each time it’s like the first time. I’ve been around each time we’ve won the award but for the students it’s a different group each time. So they’re very, very excited to get it. It’s like a competition between the new students and the old ones who have already graduated to see if they can continue the tradition and keep this alive.”