Hannah O’Malley, AWB® and TWS-Illinois Chapter member, has been selected as the 2016 Eastern Region Wildlife Specialist of the Year in the USDA’s Wildlife Services program. O’Malley has been a wildlife technician in the program’s Forest Preserve District of Cook County project since 2013 where she works on a diverse array of wildlife damage management projects involving deer, geese, other migratory birds, airports, river otters and threatened and endangered species recovery.
In receiving the award, O’Malley said, “I wish everyone here could win this award – all of my work has been a team effort.” She referred to Wildlife Service’s Chicago district office of 12 biologists and specialists, all of whom supported her nomination. O’Malley was selected from the 477 wildlife specialists in the eastern region.
Since 2009 a goal of the Forest Preserve District project has been to confirm the presence of once-extirpated river otters. O’Malley was instrumental in identifying otter latrine sites. Eventually her persistence in trapping led to an otter’s safe capture and subsequent healthy release. (See Cook County Otter Outfitted for Spy Mission.)
O’Malley said she hopes to help demonstrate the Wildlife Services mission of resolving conflicts and improving the environment.
She also was recognized for her outreach and teaching, including programs for under-represented groups; work with GIS for project safety and training; and work on aerial survey and telemetry flights.
The Florida native earned a bachelor’s degree in wildlife ecology and conservation from the University of Florida, Gainesville, in 2003 with minors in zoology and secondary education. She subsequently has participated in traditional skills training through courses in firearms and hunter safety, and Fur Takers of American trappers’ education.