Through strange times, the University of Wyoming’s Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society has not let the pandemic stop them from learning about wildlife biology and providing them direction for future careers.
Using a variety of resources, the chapter has been able to involve students in multiple activities, including biweekly virtual meetings centered on guest speakers in the wildlife field and social media engagement through a wildlife photo contest. Due to a lack of face-to-face meetings, student chapter officers planned Zoom meetings with speakers they would not have had the opportunity to hear from otherwise. As of now, they’ve had three meetings with an array of guest presenters.
Their first speaker was Carmen Daggett, a regional biologist in the northernmost region of Alaska. She discussed some of her job duties, which include annual wildlife surveys as well as working with caribou, moose and wolves. In addition, she writes reports and permit reviews. Daggett talked about the importance of community outreach and educating the general public. She also discussed how she adapted to working in rural Alaska and how it’s a different environment from what most people are used to. Flexibility and respect were key traits that helped her make the most of where she was.
The chapter also heard from Rob Ogden, a professor at the University of Edinburgh and the director of TRACE Wildlife Forensics Network, an international NGO that promotes the use of forensic science in biodiversity conservation and wildlife crime investigation. He explained how wildlife forensics is used in wildlife law enforcement and some of the challenges associated with it. Ogden spoke about the processes involved in wildlife forensics and techniques used to collect data, especially DNA. He explained that DNA collection and testing is important in determining species ID and creating tools for law enforcement to identify illegal products. DNA is also used to look at different geographic locations of wildlife populations to discover trade routes and see where animals were harvested.
The chapter’s last meeting focused on career development and how to find a job, write a resume and compose a cover letter. Speaker Jake Marden, student chapter president, shared a variety of resources for where to find job postings. He also discussed important tips about writing a cover letter, such as proof reading and making it specific for your desired job. Marden also showed examples of resumes and different aspects that made them stand out. Lastly, he gave advice for general interview skills to help in the soon approaching job-hunting season.
The current coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic effect on the chapter. “As far as COVID struggles go, trying to keep up on engagement with members has been the hardest obstacle we have had to overcome,” Marden said. “With the university’s limits, we haven’t been able to do most of the annual events and in-person events have become a lot harder to host.” Even though this year is one for the history books, members believe the pandemic has allowed their student chapter to become more connected with people they would not have been able to meet and learn from.
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