Sections, chapters and The 1,000 boost Travel Grant program

The TWS Student Travel Grants program helped fund travel for 19 students to attend the Annual Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, earlier this year. The students received up to $500 based on the score of their application.

The Student Travel Grants program was established in 2008 to help and encourage student travel to the TWS Annual Conference. Participants are Ph.D., graduate or undergraduate TWS student members who are accepted to present research at that year’s conference.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for them to get experience presenting in front of a larger crowd,” said Mariah Simmons, Wildlife Programs Coordinator at TWS. She noted that the overall conference experience, with all its networking opportunities, is just as beneficial to students as their presentations.

Historically, TWS has allocated a portion of its conference budget to this program, but the last two years, it has gotten an extra boost from local sections and chapters as well as The 1,000. This year, in addition to The 1,000, two TWS sections and 11 chapters contributed funds for student travel grants. Out of about 100 applicants each year, the program is able to fund an average of 20 depending on how much money is received from contributing organizational units, Simmons says.

Applicants are ranked by a review committee of 30-40 TWS professional members and awarded anywhere between $250-500. These judges score each application based on the abstract and draft of the poster or presentation, whether or not the student has received other funding, and if the money will be the difference in the students’ ability to attend the conference. In their analysis of the students’ research, judges are looking for current, interesting and relevant projects that have important implications for wildlife management.

Sabrina Morano, a Ph.D. student at the University of Nevada, Reno, also suggested that the conference is more than just an opportunity to present research. “It’s given me a chance to connect with people doing similar research, or just network and talk with folks about the work that I am doing.  I always come away having made a new contact or just feeling energized about my work,” she said.

Erin Zylstra, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Arizona, went a step further, noting that she’s gotten useful feedback presenting at the conference.

“At conferences in the past, people have made some really helpful suggestions and provided insights that have improved my research over the long term,” Zylstra said. In Raleigh, she presented on the population dynamics of canyon treefrogs in the sky island region of southern Arizona. The researchers used visual encounter and mark-recapture surveys to estimate survival rates and characterize movements of frogs in mountain canyons. “If you’re [a student] thinking about attending the conference, you should definitely apply. The financial assistance is well worth the effort.”