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There’s Always Something Going On – Michael Buchanon

My name is Michael Buchanon and I’m a Forestry major at Warnell. What I love about Warnell, is that there’s always something to do outside of classwork. Of the many clubs housed In Warnell, I’m a member and an officer of two of them: The Forestry Club and our National Wild Turkey Federation chapter.

img_2764Forestry Club is something I’d recommend to all forestry majors, and anyone with an interest in the forestry side of things. Almost all of Forestry Club’s meetings consist of meeting together as friends, enjoying a meal, and listening to future employers present to us what their organization is all about. I honestly can’t say I know many majors that regularly have employers come to the students. Forestry Club also attends the Society of American Forester’s conference (SAF), and the regional SAF conference every year. This is a great chance to learn about ongoing research or network with those with more experience than us. The main driving force to how we can afford to do all this, is firewood sales. Whenever possible, we have club members come out to our work area at Whitehall Forest to split and stack wood. While splitting wood is hard work, it’s fun to get outside and work with friends, all sharing the same goal of bettering our club and providing opportunities for students.

The National Wild Turkey Federation is a non-profit organization founded on the goal of increasing wild turkey habitat and getting more people outside to hunt. Our chapter is currently working with the Wildlife Society here at UGA and the Department of Natural Resources, in starting a mentored hunt opportunity for Warnell students that have never img_0015-1hunted, but want to see what it’s like after learning about how important it is to game management. We also have the opportunity to guide youth dove hunts, or assist disabled veterans and others hunters who now need assistance getting outside and hunting. We host a fundraising banquet in the spring semester, with the goal of raising money for the organization as a whole.

These are just the two clubs I’m heavily involved with. There’s something for everyone at Warnell, and each club keeps their members heavily involved with events. Even though we may not all be members of the same club, each club also offers support for one another. Like how I may not be a member of the American Fisheries Society, I certainly can’t wait to attend the catfish fry on October 21st.

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“You did WHAT this summer?” – Ellen Brady-McGaughey

My name is Ellen Brady-McGaughey and I am a senior Wildlife Sciences major. This past summer I was given an opportunity that truly changed my life. When I began my search for a summer internship, I was looking for anything that seemed interesting to me, from wildlife rehabilitation to field work. I stumbled upon a posting for an animal care internship working with chimpanzees in Louisiana and while my only prior experience was working with dogs, I submitted my application materials and hoped for the best.

I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to interview for the position, and ecstatic when I was offered a position as a husbandry intern for 9 weeks over the summer. I eagerly accepted the position and waited for this new adventure to begin.


Fun fact: Chimps throw poop sometimes. Sometimes they miss, and sometimes they don’t. This day was particularly memorable because Kate and I had dodged the first throw and celebrated our cleanliness, only to get hit multiple times after that. While we stunk, we still managed to have fun and laugh about our misfortune. 

Chimp Haven is located in northwest Louisiana, outside of Shreveport. It is home to over 200 chimpanzees, most of whom have been retired from biomedical research. If there is one thing that is readily apparent to anyone that visits Chimp Haven, it is the true love and dedication that the staff has for the chimps that call Chimp Haven home. I was fortunate enough to get to work alongside an amazing care staff team who taught me everything that they could in the short time I was there. They took time out of their day to introduce me to chimps, take me along for training sessions, and generally make sure that I was getting the most out of my internship.

This internship gave me an opportunity to gain experience in a field that I love and hope to pursue a career in following my graduation in May. I am so grateful for the opportunity I was given to work with these amazing chimps and the people who care for them. This experience would not have been possible without the financial support of the William Tyler Ray Scholarship that I received through Warnell. Without the scholarship, I would not have been able to take an unpaid internship for the summer and would not have had this life changing experience. I am immensely grateful to Warnell donors, alumni, faculty, and staff who helped to make this dream a reality, and especially to Chimp Haven for allowing me to be a part of their team this summer.



One of my favorite things to do was paint with the chimps. You put globs of paint on a canvas, give them a paint brush, and they create a masterpiece like this one. A lot of collaboration usually occurs between the chimps to create one painting. This particular painting was done by a member of Keel’s group.


Summer days in Louisiana are hot, and working outside in the heat makes you sweaty, tired, and if you’re not careful, grump. Lunch breaks gave me an opportunity to cool down, dry off, and get to know everyone. Keeping a positive attitude is easy when you are surrounded by fun supportive people like Sarah.



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Who’s coming this week? – Joe Vaughn

My name is Joe Vaughn and I’m a forestry student at Warnell. The Forestry Club is one of my favorite student clubs and organizations offered at the University of Georgia and one of my favorite questions to ask our Forestry Club President is, “Who’s coming this week?” At our somewhat weekly meetings we are able to engage with potential employers from the forestry sector. This is a great opportunity to learn more about what company or agency positions can be obtained with our degree and interests. So every Monday you can probably hear me asking Blake Sherry, “Hey, Who’s coming this week for Forestry Club?”

This past week I was surprised by his answer. Forestry Club was invited to visit with Select Trees Inc. I wasn’t very familiar with their operation but had heard of them. I knew at the very least they were involved with nursery management. After the 2-hour tour I gained a better understanding and appreciation of the business that Select Trees conducts. Businesses like Select Trees provide their clients with the most appropriate tree that meets the needs of their project. I could tell their staff was passionate about the work they were doing. It was even better to see a Warnell alumnus working and doing well for himself. It’s a common observation I have made during many of our club meetings. I think it is empowering for us as students to see fellow Warnellians contributing to the workforce. I’m thankful Forestry Club is able to have meetings that introduce us to the many professions that can be obtained with our degree. If I could offer one piece of advice for any incoming or current Warnellian it would be to participate in a club or organization. You won’t be disappointed.


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“So, you want to be a Park Ranger?” – Sarah Lynn Bowser

My name is Sarah Lynn Bowser, and I am a junior wildlife sciences major at Warnell. Whenever I am asked about what I study here at UGA, I am always ready for the follow up question of “So, what do you want to do with that? You want to be a park ranger?”

goatiNow, while there is nothing wrong with aspiring to be a forest ranger (it’s a great job, and we definitely need more of them in the world), I do get frustrated that this is the only job people think of when they hear what I study.

The truth is, there are a lot more career options for a student earning their degree with an emphasis on wildlife sciences. The program offered here at Warnell is recognized as one of the premier programs in the country, and by choosing the wildlife area of emphasis students fulfill the educational requirements to become Certified Wildlife Biologists, as stipulated by The Wildlife Society.

This education prepares students to take on many challenging career paths, ranging from Endangered Species biologists to wildlife rehabilitators.

For me personally, I plan to take my degree with me to an international level by volunteering for the Peace Corps. I’ve spoken to recruiters, and I found that having a degree from Warnell will give me automatic qualification for service. I have the 20160421_121923opportunity to serve as a volunteer in environmental education, protected areas management, and even as an agroforestry specialist in countries such as Paraguay, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Guyana.

By getting involved with these volunteer opportunities, I would be making more of an impact in smaller communities while also providing them with the education and the means to make better environmental decisions. I am mostly excited to have the opportunity to teach a younger generation and hopefully instill in them the same appreciation for the natural world that I have. My hope is that if children today fall in love with nature and the world around them, then we can be one step closer to protecting it for future generations.

So, all in all, I love when people ask about what I study. I am always excited and proud to talk about it, as I see it as important work. I just wanted people to know the large variety of avenues a degree in Wildlife sciences can really take you!

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“I bless the rains down in Africa” – Elizabeth Fincher

My name is Elizabeth Fincher and I am a senior Wildlife Sciences major, graduating in December (aka a little over 3 months away). While I have had many adventures and met wonderful people during the past two years in Warnell, the experience I will remember the most is this past summer when I went to Africa.


About to begin the 14-hour flight to South Africa

The adventure began May 4th with a 14-and-a-half-hour flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. The moment we landed, I knew the trip was going to be one to remember.

Our first 10 days were spent in EcoTraining’s Mashatu camp in Tuli Game Reserve in Botswana. On our first drive into camp we saw a dazzle of zebras, a herd of impala, a herd of wildebeests, along with several giraffes. By the end of our ten-day adventure in Mashatu we had seen three (elephants, lions, and leopards) of the “Big Five” (elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, and cape buffalo). One of the most memorable experiences in Mashatu, was when we watched a leopard stalk, kill, and eat a springbok. Our professor was the most excited of all of us because he had done his dissertation on leopards, but had never been able to see a leopard kill. Needless to say, it was a once in a lifetime experience.


The leopard digesting after a meal

The next 10 days were spent at the Makuleke camp in Kruger National Park in South Africa. This camp was full of breathtaking views. Every night we would watch the sunset, which was called a sundowner. We saw one more of the “Big five”, a cape buffalo. Unfortunately, we were not able to see any rhinos, but we did have an encounter with the anti-poaching crew, so it is safe to say we were near one of the three rhinos in the Makuleke area. The most memorable encounter we had in Makuleke was during one of our sundowners we saw hippos, crocodiles, and elephants from our spot on a beach. Although it was incredibly exciting to witness this, it was also extremely terrifying to see a view of some of the most dangerous animals in one place surrounding us.


One of the four hippos we saw, along with a bachelor herd of elephants and at least 10 crocodiles

I was also able to stay after the International Wildlife Course was over and visit Cape Town, South Africa for a view days with a few other students. While in Cape Town, we went on a wine tour, saw the endangered African penguins, and went shark cage diving.

Overall, I would not have been able to do this without having heard about it through Warnell courses and being accepted into the program. So I owe a big thank you to Warnell for being the most amazing school, Dr. Candelario for accepting me into the program, and my parents for helping me achieve my lifelong dream of going to Africa.

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Warnell Ambassador Annual Adventure!

            Warnell has a group of students known as student ambassadors. Their job is to represent Warnell at recruitment and alumni functions as well as conduct outreach events around the state. Donning their iconic polos, they are the faces of Warnell to many people on and off the UGA campus. Every year this group of students is trained during a weekend in August to perform the duties of an ambassador. This is the story of the 2016 retreat.


Warnell ambassadors take over Wendy’s


The Warnell student ambassadors set out for their retreat last Friday. The location was unknown but they left Athens excited for the training coming their way. The dinner location turned out to be a difficult decision but all 23 ambassadors and their fearless leaders made it safely to Wahsega 4-H Center in North Georgia.

The weekend started with a simple movement-based name game that turned into an impromptu workout. All the ambassadors really jumped into the activities very quickly. We then played a little bit of Warnell trivia to really test how well the new ambassadors know their school. They all did very well, even with some of the trickier questions.IMG_9059

Saturday morning came too quickly but when a hot breakfast is ready and waiting, waking up with a smile on your face isn’t too difficult. The morning started out with some Warnell major bingo. Now the ambassadors are prepared to answer questions outside of their majors. We had more business to attend to once bingo was completed but after that the fun was ramped up again. Our ambassadors are now all Project WILD trained! They participated in several of the well-known activities, such as Oh Deer and What’s Wild. We also gave them a challenge to write a poem about natural resources and we have some very creative students! Here are two of the poems written by our ambassadors.

To Be or Not to Be…

By: Joe Vaughn

To be a forestry major, will I have to know all the trees?

To be a fisheries and wildlife major, will I have to know all the animals?

To a NRRT major, will I have to know people’s culture?

To be a WASR major, will I have to know all the types of soil?

Those are my questions.


By: Sidney Woodruff

    “The wildlife manager walks along the creek,

      And sees the bank where the forests meet.

      He sits and wonders his place in the land,

      And gasps when he sees the task at hand.

      ‘This beautiful land so precious and pure,

      How do I explore and not destroy?’

      There’s more to know and less to touch,

      To protect and conserve is a job we must.”


But then it was their turn to be the teachers. The ambassadors taught about duck feathers, bears, fish and predator-prey interactions. In the bear activity they were tasked to find their food (in the form of a paper card on the ground) and during several rounds certain students were given an additional challenge. In any given round of the activity we had a momma bear, blind bear or injured bear in the mix. This activity is used to show how factors in the environment can limit populations.


The evening ended with an activity to help our students answer some of the difficult questions that students are asked at events. Ambassadors are faced with responding to statements like “The only good snake is a dead snake” and “I brought home 10 turtles from our pond. They live in my bathtub.” These can be difficult to respond to if you’re not prepared. We also discussed more straightforward questions like “What do I need to do to transfer to UGA?”

Overall, the ambassadors are prepared to respond to a wide variety of questions they might face this year.

Sunday morning consisted of team bonding activities. We played a wonderful game IMG_9074of Do you Love your Neighbor? This is a game that highlights the similar things about the group, everything from shirt color to whether or not individuals own a pet. Luckily it didn’t turn into a contact sport and no one got injured. Before leaving camp several students played volleyball again. Whenever there was a moment of downtime, a game of volleyball would magically appear. Luckily the net was pretty short so the tall members of the team didn’t have to jump to spike the ball. We loaded up the vans and headed off to enjoy an afternoon of tubing on the mountains. The folks at Appalachian Outfitters hooked us up, and we floated for about an hour and a half before pointing the vans towards Athens.

Overall, it was quite the fun weekend filled with training, bonding and a lot of fun.IMG_9075


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Social Media in Wildlife – Alexandra Wickson

Social media can be a tricky subject to navigate in the natural resources profession. The use of social media is ubiquitous these days, but there are many strong opinions and incorrect information on the Internet. If we as future advocates of conservation don’t sort through this information, dispel myths, and correct inaccuracies, who will? We can use social media to our advantage to educate, foster cooperation, and to promote the understanding and practice of science. One of the biggest ways we can be good stewards is to improve our own online presence and learn to decipher viral posts.

Improving our online presence means not only engaging people in a conversation about conservation but also being selective about what we post and share. It’s important to remember the stereotypes and the perceptions that are associated with certain posts, actions, or animals. Often refuting these stereotypes or perceptions can be done with a simple caption. Here are some examples:

  • Necropsy labs-explain the reason for the necropsy and be aware that some people don’t like to see pictures
  • Sedated/Deceased Animals-show respect for the animal, don’t post pictures of an animal covered in blood, and explain why the research was done or how hunting contributes to conservation (use it as an opportunity to educated people!)
  • Clearcutting-explain how harvesting trees is utilizing our renewable resources and how this kind of disturbance restarts succession and is positive for many wildlife species
  • Snakes-explain why snakes are valuable to the ecosystem and to humans and educate people on the ways to distinguish between venomous and non-venomous snakes.

Part of improving our online presence includes learning how to decipher viral posts. These posts are typically meant to connect with people emotionally or announce a novel discovery, but often these issues are summarized in a way that misleads the reader or leaves out information. Some examples include:

  • Photoshopped pictures of animals
  • Videos of the loris or sea otters being touched, petted, etc. but in reality these animals are suffering stress from human interaction. Here’s an example of the criticism the sea otter video faced, from biologists and federal agencies alike.
  • Encouraging wildlife as pets but not discussing the long lifespans, diseases carried, and the effort of caretaking that goes into many exotic pets (ex. Raccoons, amphibians, reptiles, endangered species, venomous species, prairie dogs, etc.)
  • The recent announcement that tiger populations are increasing (this may be true, but reading the article lets you know that their population might not have actually increased, it may just be that our detection of them is increasing)
    • The news is still good news, don’t get me wrong, but the headline is misleading. The article itself admits that we have improved the technology to detect secretive animals like tigers and that the territory monitored for tigers has expanded. So while we have better estimates of their populations (which allows for better management), this study is not claiming tiger populations are safe from previous threats (poaching, habitat loss, etc.) or that they are no longer in need of protection.

Being in the field of wildlife conservation is exciting and fun, but it’s also hard work and an important cause, so it’s crucial that we use our professional expertise and knowledge to educate and correct myths. While doing these things, we need to remain objective and analytical of media we consume and distribute. When in doubt, look for a scientific source to back it up and remember, if it seems weird or too good to be true, it might be!