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An Unwavering Interest in Natural Resources by Jeffrey Edwards (he/him/his)

My short career has taken me all over the country ranging from the steep, rugged, remote country that defines northcentral Idaho to the freshwater coastal wetlands of Lake Erie and onwards to the Gulf Coast of Louisiana where I recently completed my first field season.

What is the future of conservation? This is the ever-evolving question I always ask myself. Being a new graduate student, I don’t believe I am supposed to have it figured out yet. Perhaps I am, but I’d rather endure this chapter of my life with an open mind, undirected from any bias of what I think I want to do, and what others think I should do.

Professionally, I have sought advice from a diverse group of professionals ranging from the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), state and federal agencies, and academia. I intend to find my answer to this question from the culmination of information shared through emails, phone calls, and zoom meetings with the generous professionals that offer their time to help me find my way.

Northern Pintail Duck on snow covered ground
Northern Pintail Duck male on snow covered ground.

The breadth of opportunities across the country for wildlife students is overwhelming, and I think it would be foolish to not travel during your undergraduate studies to the far-reaching corners of the country and even internationally. This allows you to identify specific regions, ecosystems, or species that have garnered your attention. I fell in love with the Pacific Northwest, so now it’s just a matter of time before I return. I’ve discovered that working in a region that encompasses a diverse range of ecotypes is preferred because I have interests and experiences working with waterfowl, wetlands, upland game birds, grasslands, white-tailed deer, lynx, goshawks, and the list goes on. I fell in love with the field of wildlife ecology and management not by accident, but purpose.

Image: White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
White-tailed deer in a field.

I began my undergraduate track as a natural resources law enforcement major, but decided it wasn’t for me. I took two years off working various non-wildlife related positions, but joined two wildlife management, natural resources policy NGOs that sparked an unwavering interest in the field of wildlife and how our natural resources need and deserve people to defend the wild places and organisms that still exist on the planet. It was time to step into the arena, and I am forever grateful for the direction those NGOs provided me.

Personally, I fell in love with a fisheries woman and have been in a long-distance relationship for well over a year now. Navigating long distance relationships in this field are far from uncommon. However, I’d hypothesize that perhaps much fewer of these relationships are among wildlife and fisheries individuals. This is a large component in preparing and planning for my future and deciding what I want to do when I graduate.

Our end goal is living together and perhaps, working out of the same office. The feasibility of doing so escapes me because I’m not sure how frequent this occurs. So, if anyone has had similar experiences, I’d love to hear the success stories!

by Jeffrey Edwards (he/him/his),, Graduate Research Assistant, Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Graduate Student Representative | North Central Section – The Wildlife Society

Scientists attach a GPS tracking device to a brown bird with a blue wing, extended.
Scientists attach a GPS tracking device to a blue-winged teal at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana.

Jeffery leads research on blue-winged teal at the Missouri CRU. Compared with other dabbling ducks, blue-winged teal migrate earlier in autumn, migrate later in spring, and winter at more southern latitudes with a broader distribution. The to which management decisions, particularly wetland inundation that allow other dabbling species to access food resources, benefit blue-winged teal remains unclear. We propose to use data from blue-winged teal marked with GPS-GSM transmitters and satellite imagery, to better understand the role of environmental variability (e.g., water availability) and land ownership on blue-winged teal resource selection, movement, and survival during the annual cycle.