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Steve Demarais recognized for lifetime achievements working with deer
Steve Demarais has been working on deer management since he was a graduate student—even if that wasn’t the original plan.
He went to school with the intent of studying wildlife diseases, but his master’s project happened to be on white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). His PhD project—an expansion of his master’s work—involved deer, too. His interest in deer even crossed over to his free time.
“I grew up hunting and fishing,” said Demarias, a TWS member and Taylor Endowed Chair in Applied Big Game Research and Instruction at Mississippi State University.
It’s fitting, then, that the National Deer Association honored Demarais with the 2022 Joe Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes individuals who have dedicated their career to deer management.
“To be selected by the NDA for my lifetime body of work is very meaningful,” Demarais said.
Demarais’s applied research has had measurable impacts on deer management, even regulatory decisions by state agencies. A few years ago, his research found that Mississippi antler regulations were having a negative effect on deer populations, prompting the state to change the regulations.
Demarais also spends a lot of his career working with the public. “I’ve always enjoyed speaking to a group of landowners and hunters and having them really excited about what I’m telling them,” he said. Demarais recalls a social media survey where 89% of Facebook and Instagram followers of the Mississippi State University big game program responded that they had applied information on habitat and population management on their property. That equated to about 800,000 hectares of land where research was applied. “That’s impactful,” he said.
Demarais said he is also proud of his graduate students, many of whom have gone on to work in state and federal agencies and academia. “Our students are making an impact on day-to-day wildlife management decisions and educating students about the importance of applied research,” he said.
That impact is what is most important, Demarais said, but the professional acknowledgment is meaningful.
“The recognition is a thanks,” he said, “and I appreciate that.”