Passion drives McDonough Award winner

Nominations for the 2017 Jim McDonough Award will be accepted through May 1. Click on the link above to visit the McDonough Award webpage, or visit to learn more about all TWS awards.

The day after Reggie Thackston retired from the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division of the Department of Natural Resources where he worked for 27 years, he immediately took a half-time position with the Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy.

This devotion to wildlife is part of what helped Thackston win the Jim McDonough Award at last year’s TWS annual conference in Raleigh. “Most of us who go into the wildlife profession do it because it’s a passion, and we can’t just walk away from a passion,” he said.

The Jim McDonough Award was established in the name of the longtime biologist and TWS member to honor his generosity and support for professional excellence in wildlife management. The award is presented to TWS members who are Certified Wildlife Biologists, members of the section and chapter where they live and have made important contributions to the field. This description is easily reflected in Thackston’s story.

Thackston has been a member of The Wildlife Society since he got his associate certification in 1979 and full certification in 1985. He loved wildlife since he was a child. “The genesis for my interest in a career in conservation was growing up with a family that spent time outdoors,” Thackston said. He recalls camping, fishing and hiking in the North Georgia mountains with his family when he was growing up and quail hunting with his father from the age of 4.

Since then, Thackston has been a member of the TWS chapters of every state he’s lived in, including Oklahoma, South Carolina and Georgia.

Winning the McDonough Award has allowed Thackston to reflect on his career and involvement in TWS. “It’s almost always a team effort,” he said. “This has certainly been the case in my career. I’ve been really fortunate to work with people who are just as passionate as I am. And to have that kind of relationship with your peers and that kind of unity and mission focus is just something that you don’t run into everywhere you go.”

Thackston hopes to continue to contribute to wildlife conservation, in particular with bobwhite quail restoration and management. With Tall Timbers, he currently oversees the Carolina Regional Quail Project where he works with private landowners in the Carolinas to manage lands for northern bobwhites in fire-dependent systems.

“It’s important to have passion as the driver and we are fortunate in wildlife conservation to have peers that are like that as well,” Thackston said. “We are all working for a cause which is stewardship of natural resources.”

Header Image: Reggie Thackston began hunting with his father as a child and continues to hunt today. Image courtesy of Reggie Thackston.