What TWS Has Meant To Me

It was fall in 1983—my first quarter at Montana State University—when I walked into the office of one of my professors, Dr. Richard Mackie, seeking some advice. “Dr. Mackie,” I said, “what can I do to be more engaged and successful in the wildlife profession?”

Mackie was an active member of TWS. In a few years, he would serve as president. Without hesitating, he grabbed a TWS membership form from his desk, handed it to me and said, “Join your professional society.”

At the time, I really didn’t have the money to spare on a membership, so I got creative. I put it on my Christmas list!  I mean, come on, how many more shirts and pairs of socks does a kid need?  A TWS membership is the perfect gift, right?

My mother obliged. In January 1984 I became a member of TWS, and I have been one ever since—almost 40 years now!

As a student, I really didn’t do much for TWS beyond attending state chapter meetings. Then I got my first professional job and moved to Oregon in 1990. I began attending Oregon Chapter meetings and watched as leaders in the wildlife profession ran what was one of the country’s strongest chapters at the time. It inspired me. Soon, I ran for a board position with the chapter. I wanted to give something back and pay it forward to our professionals and students.

I ended up serving nine years on the Oregon Chapter’s board, including serving as its president. One of my most rewarding endeavors was serving as workshop coordinator—putting on trainings for wildlifers, generating revenue for the chapter, all the while garnering skills to effectively organize, plan, and run meetings and large events.

The Wildlife Society has been a special organization for me throughout my entire career. Indeed, TWS has offered me a career-long venue—a venue for learning and growing as a professional, developing friendships and professional connections, presenting my research and receiving feedback, discussing and solving complex problems with colleagues, and developing and implementing leadership skills and giving something back.

I’ve often heard both members and non-members say, “What can TWS do for me?” I have never asked that question. I took Dr. Mackie’s advice and tried to demonstrate what I could do for TWS.

Everyone is different, but this is my story with TWS. I never thought I would become the CEO of our professional society, and I can assure you that this never would have happened without being a member for decades, without engaging and leading at the chapter level, and without the relationships I made through my engagements with TWS at all levels.

In my first message to members after I started my tenure as CEO, I encouraged colleagues to draw from John F. Kennedy’s wisdom and ask not what your professional society can do for you, but what you can do to better your professional society and support your fellow wildlifers.

This attitude and approach has worked well for me. I’m sure it can work for you too.

Keep up your great work for wildlife and our profession! We greatly appreciate you being a member and hope that you will stay on into your 40th year and beyond, as I and many others have. Look for ways to engage as much as you can with TWS at any or all levels. You make us a stronger, better, more united force for wildlife!

And who knows? You just might be CEO sometime down the road!

Yours in conservation,

Ed Arnett, PhD, Certified Wildlife Biologist®
Chief Executive Officer