Training, conference, rebranding earn Texas Chapter of the Year Award

The Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society’s success at providing professional training to early career professionals, rebranding their logo to be more inclusive, putting on a successful conference and more earned it the Chapter of the Year Award for 2022.

A lot of the work the chapter has concluded this year is a continuation of projects that were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of those was the James G. Teer Leadership Institute early career professional training, which ended up being a two-year-long virtual program rather than a year-long one in person. “The way those young professionals stuck out a tough situation just shows the tenacity of those young professionals and the folks who hosted the leadership institute,” said John Kinsey, the president of the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society.

The chapter also embarked on a rebranding effort. The goal, Kinsey said, was “to be more outwardly apparent that we are a diverse and inclusive organization,” reflecting diverse participants as well as species and habitats.

As part of a rebranding effort, the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society changed its logo to include a Texas horned lizard and a bobwhite quail. Credit: Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society

In order to create the new logo, the chapter polled past and current leadership as well as early career professionals to get a better idea of what wildlife they felt best represented Texas. They came up with the Texas horned lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum) and bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus), both of which face population declines.

That’s not where the chapter’s push for diversity ended. The Texas Chapter also addressed diversity, equity and inclusion within the chapter and the workforce, working with a relatively new committee to understand challenges to addressing DEI issues.

The chapter also faced challenges, particularly in regards to challenges brought in by the COVID-19 pandemic. Resuming an in-person chapter meeting this year, the group capped attendance at 500—about a third less than its usual attendance—with free COVID-19 test kits, optional temperature screenings and health checks, and full refunds for last-minute cancellations due to COVID-19.

“The Texas Chapter, true to form, took a very optimistic but also cautious approach to throwing our in-person conference with policies and guidelines workable for people of many different comfort levels,” said Romey Swanson, immediate past president of the Texas Chapter.

Texas Chapter leadership attended a legislative meeting at the Texas Capitol.
Credit: Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society

The chapter also increased its voice in setting policies on behalf of wildlife and the wildlife profession. That has included providing guidance to the Texas state legislature on chronic wasting disease and supporting the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. “We’re seen as an authority more and more,” Swanson said.

Swanson hopes to see the chapter continue to increase relevancy to its membership and the public. He’s proud to be a part of the chapter. “To see recognition from The Wildlife Society is just such a privilege but also an honor,” he said. “I think it is a signal of the great folks that work on behalf of the Texas Chapter and our membership.”

Kinsey agrees. “It’s not my award. It’s the chapter’s award. It’s the membership’s award,” he said. “I didn’t do anything to get this award—it was all them. So hopefully, they take the same pride in being a member of the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society as I do. This is a testament to their hard work and their dedication throughout this past year.”

Header Image: The Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society’s Conservation Camp provided a week-long experience of teaching students about nature, ecology and wildlife. Credit: Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society