For the past 2½ years, Warnell has been my home away from home; a place where I felt truly comfortable to be myself. While Warnell holds some of the best memories of my college career, I didn’t realize until now, one month from my graduation, how important what we’ve learned truly is. As our days at Warnell come to an end, we are charged with entering a society that has little education about natural resources. Warnell is one of the smallest colleges on campus, but the impact we make when we leave is one of the largest. In this society that we live in today, we focus so much on money and materialistic value. But what we Warnellians have learned is that the sustainability of our resources for the enjoyment of our families is so much more important than those material items. So many people have lost sight of the value of the outdoors, and therefore are failing to instill that appreciation into their children. This downward spiral will be the death of our natural resources if we as professionals do not strive to combat it. As author Richard Louv said, “Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.” Because we chose this field, we must try our hardest to convey the importance of natural resources to the public, so that they will, in turn, convey it to their children. If we can make this connection for them, we could combat the constant degradation of the resources that we desperately need. In saying all of this, how lucky are we that we have a home like Warnell that instills these values in our hearts? As I prepare to jump out of the nest and venture into the world, I will take with me everything that I’ve been taught while at Warnell. I implore all of you to do the same.
Glacier National Park was my home for 67 days. I slept, ate, hiked, and worked in Northern Montana for these two months, which became some of the best days of my life thus far. I woke up early each day, slipped into my National Park Service uniform, adjusted my flat hat, put on my hiking boots, and headed off to my office – St. Mary Campground. I greeted cheery campers, discussed bear safety, patrolled the campground, and gave hiking suggestions. When my 8-hour day was done, my friends and I would explore our remarkable home. With longer days in this northern region, it was easy to work a full day and hike ten miles afterwards, still making it home for a full night’s sleep. I watched bear cubs tussle with their mom, shooed mountain goats away from my tent, sang to unseen bears on trails, woke up sorer than ever before, and experienced the purest wilderness.
Thinking back on these 67 days, it is sometimes hard to believe they happened. In the grand scheme of life, two months is a miniscule ripple on the timeline of experiences ahead. Often, I think back fondly on my summer, but sometimes I gloomily reminisce because college life does not compare, and I am simply not in Montana anymore. While there were periods where I deeply missed those back home, I immediately wanted to be back in Montana when I returned to Georgia. I could not fathom the thought of resuming college after what I had experienced in the American West. The life I spent there was transformative in unexplainable ways and I was not sure how I was going to fit that into my life at the University of Georgia. Working at Glacier seemed like the beginning, so the thought of two more years of college terrified me. In short, I lost much motivation in my return and felt quite lost. Despite this, I began to remember the purpose of my college education as the semester unfolded.
What I have ultimately realized is that the beginning of my adventures has already begun. My education in Warnell is the gateway to more opportunities as I gain knowledge about managing natural resources. It can be easy to get lost dreaming about the future. It can also be easy to lose sight of your purpose amidst the whirlwind of college life, but I find confidence in my education and the path I am foraging as I look forward to my next great adventure.
Some people grow up hoping they can have the opportunity to make their hobby a career. Unfortunately, many do not get the chance but not this Warnellian. My love for being outdoors exploring, discovering, and being among the wildlife has flourished since being accepted to Warnell. First years of school at UGA were tough for me academically and financially. My confidence in being successful at school come back to me after being accepted to Warnell and taking my first class- Field Measurements. In this class we learned one of the most important tasks, in my opinion, about being in the wilderness and that was how to navigate. With this class, I was able to get comfortable with getting lost and finding my way back to the starting point and I looked at life in the same manner ever since. Being Pre-Vet and having to take tough sciences along with my other classes always began to discourage me with school, yet when I started to take classes within Warnell I gained more confidence in that area as well. Receiving the Young Alumni award, I was given the chance to attend a conference or seminar to expand my knowledge and make connections andI was truly grateful for that. The faculty and students in the school are very welcoming and willing to go on weird adventures into the woods at any moment. The school as a whole is designed for the students to succeed and go out into the career force and/or to future education and make a difference in the environment. I was able to find a new passion in wildlife infectious diseases and hope to make that a career one day. I am very appreciative for all the individuals that have helped and guided me within Warnell and have my best interest at heart. I love being a Warnell Dawg and I will continue to cherish all the moments I have had far into the future!
This summer I worked for a professor and his graduate student at the University of Idaho. The University of Idaho is located in Moscow, Idaho along the Idaho state border with Washington. The institution is uniquely located in that they are in relatively close proximity to many of the vastly different ecosystems located throughout the American West. The main area that I worked was the moist forests of the Selkirk Mountain Range in Northern Idaho. I was hired by Dr. Andrew Nelson as a field technician for his graduate student Jon Cherico. Dr. Nelson is an Assistant Professor in the University of Idaho’s Department of Forest, Rangeland, and Fire Sciences. Much of what he studies and teaches involves topics such as stand development, forest regeneration, and silviculture. I worked as the field technician for his graduate student Jon Cherico – Jon was collecting data this summer for his master’s thesis which involved a study on how different site preparation methods affected the growth of Douglas fir and Western White Pine in the moist regions of the Inland Northwest.
When I was looking for summer jobs I intentionally applied for jobs outside of the region. I saw the job description posted by Dr. Nelson and felt that it would be an interesting place to work while also giving me experience and insight into an area of forestry that I had no experience with, and that is research. I had never been further west than the Mississippi River and I could not pass up the chance to gain valuable work experience while also seeing a different part of the country. By leaving Georgia for the summer I also knew that I would be pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I felt leaving family, friends, and then living and working with strangers would be a good character building experience.
What initially attracted me to the job was that it offered me the opportunity to work outdoors in some of the most remote and beautiful areas of the Inland Northwest. I worked with Jon on his research for his master’s thesis. Most of the time we were working in the valley and on the mountain sides of the Priest River Experimental forest area. We were collecting data by felling randomly selected crop trees that were planted in the study thirty years ago. Once the tree was on the ground we took intense measurements of the trees height, diameters along the stem, and diameters and cardinal direction of every branch along the stem. We also counted rings and measured sap wood of disc cross sections taken along the tree.
Besides working this summer I also had the opportunity to visit some of the most stunning sites in the American West. I spent some time off traveling down the Oregon coast and down into the Redwoods of Northern California. I was also able to visit Crater Lake and Glacier National Parks. Many times I was breath taken by the majesty and beauty if some of these landscapes. My time here at Warnell has provided me with knowledge and understanding that allowed me to appreciate my experiences this summer in ways I could not have otherwise.
The Public Trust Doctrine is the principle that wildlife cannot be owned by private citizens. It is the fundamental reason why we enjoy a bounty of wildlife in this country and throughout North America. Instead of identifying landowners, government appointees or other individuals as owners of wildlife, wildlife resources are held in trust for the benefit of all citizens. The “trustee” is the responsible authority that has jurisdiction for those species and is usually the state or federal government.
This principle originated from the Justinian Code which was a part of the Roman law. In this law, the only way the public could own a wild animal was when they physically possessed it which usually meant when the animal was harvested and subsequently used for food. When the Magna Carta was being created, the English did not like the idea of something not having an owner, the English decided that the king would serve as a trustee of the land and would hold it in trust for the people. The early American colonies operated under the Magna Carta rule until the American Revolution. Americans believed that wildlife belonged to all people and, thus, began operating under the Public Trust Doctrine. Under the Doctrine, the government is charged with maintaining the natural resources so that they may be preserved for future generations.
The Public Trust Doctrine is a great conservation tool, but in order for it to be effective, the public must understand that wildlife belongs to everyone, the government needs to be held accountable for the trust, and the Doctrine must be kept up to date. As I reflect on this doctrine of public trust, I am so thankful to be a Warnell student because they place such value and emphasis on wildlife being held in public trust, continually impressing upon us that it is our responsibility as future natural resource managers to manage our resources in a way that maximizes their value. This mindset is imperative of natural resource managers. In a culture where the general school of thought is, “How does this benefit me?” and where little thought is given to how others are affected by our actions and decisions, I feel so blessed to have found an institution, like Warnell, that places such emphasis on the importance of benefiting the greatest number of people through our actions. I am, indeed, proud to be a Warnell student and ambassador!
People always say that college will be one of the most memorable experiences of your life, but I never really bought into that ideal before coming to Warnell. If I had been told a year ago that I would fly to New Mexico, see snow in the summer, or win National TWS quiz bowl, I wouldn’t have believed it. Those just aren’t things that most college students are able to experience, and certainly not in the middle of a school week in September. However, Warnell is different. Warnell has opened a seemingly unlimited number of doors for me and every other student I know.
One of the best things about Warnell is its superb connection to, and support of, professional organizations in natural resources. This connection fosters an environment in which students are encouraged to attend conferences. The word “conference” might bring to mind a boring congregation of business people, droning on about who knows what. The important thing to remember though is that the conference I am referring to was a wildlife conference, so excuse the pun, but it was wild! There were an amazing amount of field trips, exciting exhibits and displays, fascinating new wildlife research, and perhaps best of all, opportunities to network with the same professionals that will one day work over, under, or with you.
I cannot overstate the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity possible to attend conferences. Not only will you be able to network and make friends with individuals with a diverse range of backgrounds and interests, but it will genuinely make you a better and more well-rounded individual. You will be exposed to new ideas that grow your character. You will see amazing sights that you never would have otherwise. You will establish traditions that are revisited every year. Hopefully, as I did, you will love every single second of it.
In July of 2013, I was able to experience something that few people rarely get the chance to do. I traveled to Chipley, Florida to visit a place called Seacrest Wolf Preserve where I got to meet and play with wolves.
Seacrest Wolf Preserve is a non-profit organization that works to help educate the public about the importance of wolves in ecosystems. They organize group and private hands on experiences with the canids as a way to foster a respect and understanding of just how these animals help the natural world. The Preserve houses several ambassador wolves that serve as educators for their species. Seacrest is also giving many of their animals a second chance, as most of the wolves were mistreated in captivity or injured and cannot be released into the wild. As most people never come into contact with a wolf in their lifetime, these ambassador wolves help to dispel some of the common misconceptions about the rest of their species.
I had the amazing opportunity to meet these animals up-close and personal during a private tour. Being ambassadors, the wolves were used to human presence and were quite excited to have new company. I spent a few hours getting to know the different wolves and learning all about how they affect the natural environment. This experience was not only my first encounter with real wolves, but was also special for a completely different reason.
Around the time of visiting Seacrest Wolf Preserve, I was wrestling with the decision of whether I wanted to become a Warnell major or not. It was the beginning of my sophomore year and I had just learned about the wildlife program here at Warnell. Everything about the major seemed to match up with my interests, but I was yet not sure if it was the right career path for me. However, after visiting Seacrest, I knew exactly what my decision would be. After seeing the wolves in person and watching how Seacrest ran their educational tours, I knew that I wanted to do something similar in the future.
If not for these ambassador wolves at Seacrest Wolf Preserve, I might still be searching for what I want to do with my career. Now that I’m in Warnell, I can’t imagine being in any other school. I will always look back at this experience and think of it fondly, as it has had a huge influence on my life. It just goes to show that inspiration can truly come from anywhere.