Texas A&M AgriLife faculty, staff and students were recognized for their academic contributions and expertise in wildlife conservation and management at the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society meeting recently in Houston.
The Wildlife Society is the international non-profit scientific and educational organization serving and representing wildlife professionals in wildlife conservation and resource management.
Faculty recognized for contributions
Roel Lopez, Ph.D., head of the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management and director of the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute, was awarded Honorary Lifetime Membership for his extensive service to the professional society and accomplishments throughout his career.
“The Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society has done so much to advance the careers and research of budding wildlife professionals—myself included,” Lopez said. “It is a joy to see this legacy continue with students from the Department of Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management.”
Lopez has been an active member of the Texas Chapter since 1990 and has served in multiple leadership positions at both the state and international level of The Wildlife Society.
Over his career, Lopez has been awarded numerous grants totaling more than $42 million, served as chair or co-chair of 115 graduate students, published more than 170 papers and delivered over 300 presentations.
Lopez’s teaching, service and research has merited numerous professional awards including the Texas A&M University System Regents Fellow Service Award, Texas Wildlife Association Sam Beasom Conservation Leader Award, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southeast Regional Recovery Champion, as well as multiple technical publication awards from The Wildlife Society and the Society for Range Management.
“Roel is called upon by legislators, agency leadership and others to inform decision and policy-making processes, and he continues to lead efforts in educating their future employees,” said Bill Adams, chair of the honorary lifetime membership committee. “Beyond his academic achievement and legacy, personal effectiveness may be his greatest gift of service to the chapter and our profession.”
Outstanding technical paper
Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute’s Alison Lund, program manager, and Drew Finn, project coordinator, received the Outstanding Technical Publication Award for their Threatened and Endangered Species Forecast Guidebook prepared for the Department of Defense in cooperation with the Office of the Governor and the Texas Military Preparedness Commission. The project was made possible by a grant from the DOD Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation, formerly the Office of Economic Adjustment.
“The importance of DOD lands to sustainable wildlife populations and the unique habitats they offer is well established, especially for species of conservation concern,” Lund said. “Currently, DOD lands across the U.S. support the highest density of federally threatened and endangered species of any other federal agency.”
The Natural Resources Institute, a unit of Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, maintains a robust Military Land Sustainability Program, which supports the U.S. military’s mission through integrated land management and collaborative regional planning. Lund and Finn’s work is a component of this multifaceted effort.
Like other federal agencies, under the Endangered Species Act the DOD is required to protect any federally listed species found on their land. This includes maintaining suitable habitat and limiting disturbance and impacts within critical habitat areas during important times of the year, such as breeding season.
The authors utilized multiple resources from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as input from wildlife research scientists with the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute. They compiled a comprehensive listing of species that are likely to be listed as threatened or endangered in the near future and also fall within the footprint of the state’s military installations.
“Each species has an individual page, which summarizes pertinent, scientifically sound information needed for installation natural resource managers to get started in the planning and management process to conserve newly listed species,” Finn said.
Wildlife students showcase academic skill
The Texas A&M Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society took home top honors at the event’s statewide Quiz Bowl. The competition challenges participants representing student chapters from across the state with rounds of questions related to the broad range of wildlife biology, management and research.
The Texas A&M chapter will also compete at the national level during The Wildlife Society conference in November in Louisville, Kentucky.
In addition to posters and presentations by current undergraduate and graduate students, members of the Department of Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management and the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute were featured speakers discussing ongoing research and current conservation trends facing the state.