Adapting to Changing Membership: Highlights of the 2014 TWS Member Survey

The Wildlife Society (TWS) membership in 2014 included nearly 10,000 professionals and students with expertise in all aspects of wildlife biology, research, conservation, and management. As part of an effort to understand changing members and their experience and involvement with TWS, we contacted members of the international Society and participating Section and Chapters to invite them to share their perceptions and opinions through an online survey in Fall 2014. The survey included questions in six categories relating to demographics, membership, certification, meetings, publications, and communications.

We heard from 3,762 respondents, including TWS members from all 50 U.S. states, six Canadian provinces, and several additional countries. Of the respondents, 44% worked for a federal, provincial, or state agency; other affiliations included colleges or universities (15%), for-profit businesses, non-governmental or not-for-profit agencies, and retired members. The average responding member has worked in the wildlife profession for 16 years. Compared to a previous TWS member survey (n = 998 respondents) completed in 1991 by Brown et al. (1994), member demographics have shifted; females comprise a greater proportion of the membership (32% in 2014; 19% in 1991), and the average age of members has increased slightly (median = 44 years in 2014; 39 years in 1991).

Most members indicated that membership in a student chapter (54%), encouragement of a mentor (38%), and/or attending a TWS meeting (22%) sparked their initial involvement with TWS; this finding speaks to the value of engaging students and developing and maintaining personal connections with colleagues. Members identified networking with other wildlife professionals as one of the top benefits of TWS involvement across all levels of membership (Society 60%; Section 50%; Chapter 81%). Access to information about wildlife issues at the international (64%), regional (45%), and state/provincial (70%) scale also received top ratings as a benefit of TWS at the respective levels of membership. Other benefits of membership included access to publications, especially The Wildlife Professional magazine, and contributing to the wildlife profession through service.

Survey responses will inform TWS Council as they identify ways to improve the value of specific aspects of membership services and benefits at the Society level as part of the Society’s 2014—2019 strategic plan. These findings also provide an updated snapshot of changing TWS members since the last Society-level membership survey was completed more than 20 years ago.

References: Brown, T. L., J. W. Enck, D. J. Decker, and T. M. Franklin.  1994.  The Wildlife Society: its members evaluate its services. Wildlife Society Bulletin 22: 503-510.