The Stephen F. Austin State University Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society won the Student Chapter of the Year award for the second consecutive year.
“To our chapter, I think it’s a feeling of satisfaction that we really worked hard throughout the entire year,” said Cassandra Kapp, the president of the chapter. “We worked so hard and didn’t think it was possible to get it again.”
Kapp credits winning the award to the chapter’s ability to recruit and retain younger members. Last year, when Kapp was the awards historian and public relations manager for the chapter, she was pleasantly surprised that not only did a number of freshmen show up at the first meeting to test the waters, but many remained throughout the whole year.
And that was even with complications from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In the beginning of the year, the chapter’s meetings were in person, the spring recruitment brought virtual meetings that did hurt recruitment a little, Kapp said. But they bounced right back.
Despite the pandemic, the chapter is proud of its ability to provide field experience to students. Chapter members conducted spotlight surveys for alligators and deer a number of times, in which they drive down a path and use a spotlight to look for animals in order to determine what the population looks like.
They also helped landowners plant trees on a ranch and taught high school students how to plant a tree.
One event that stands out to Kapp was a deer capture. Student chapter members traveled to South Texas with the East Foundation and Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute to catch white-tailed deer with helicopters. They learned how to tag and collect measurements and research data from the deer, worked with helicopter crews to capture the deer and worked with release crews to return them to the wild. The information they collected was used in a research project.
Not only was the event educational, but Kapp said it bonded the students. “The group of people that got to capture deer actually got really close,” she said. “Traveling with people, working side-by-side, the fireside dinners at night, it really makes a difference.” Kapp thinks that’s why members stuck around even with online meetings.
This school year, Kapp hopes to expand these types of opportunities to more members, including a duck banding trip in Louisiana or quail counts in Snyder, Texas. The chapter hopes to get freshmen engaged and motivated to go on these types of excursions.
Kapp hopes the recognition of winning the award shows future students and current students how good the wildlife education program at their school is.
“Our school is not really seen as a wildlife school. We’re usually just labeled as forestry,” she said. “Now we can be seen as having a really great wildlife program, and the award has made some people feel really proud knowing we did it and we can actually go out there and compete with bigger universities and stand out on top.”
Click here for a complete list of 2021 TWS award winners. For more about this year’s virtual conference, click here.
Dana Kobilinsky is associate editor at The Wildlife Society. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments about her article. You can follow her on Twitter at @DanaKobi.
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