Mark Wallace is a professor and interim chairman of Texas Tech University’s Department of Natural Resources Management. In addition to his teaching and administrative duties, his research has focused on animal-habitat relationships studying land use effects on turkey populations in Texas and Kansas, elk in New Mexico, ecologies of prairie species in the Texas panhandle, and even the economic value of songbirds in Lubbock. He earned a bachelor’s degree in forest resources/wildlife science from the University of Washington and a master’s degree in wildlife ecology from the University of Arizona. His doctorate degree in wildlife and fisheries sciences is from the University of Arizona.
Department of Natural
Texas Tech University
Box 42125, Lubbock, TX 79409
Web Site: http://www.rw.ttu.edu/ttunrm/
Getting on Message
Telling the story of just what do natural resources managers do?
By Mark Wallace
I had a new student ask me the other day, "Why do all my friends and family think I am at school to become a park ranger or game warden?" She was troubled that her family did not understand what she was learning or what she planned for her career. I can remember facing these same questions when I was an undergraduate. Obviously, we have not done a good job in Natural Resources Management of telling the public what we do. So, what do natural resources managers do?
I thought I would review a sample of students I have known to illustrate the diverse career paths and what natural resources managers do. Most students come in with an empathy towards animals or the environment. Some stay focused on zoo or wildlife rehab careers and find jobs with urban zoos, private animal rescue, or rehabilitation centers like Sarah and Joe. Some like Brady and Matt become more invested in scientific aspects and work as researchers for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Southwest.
While others like Warren and Susan follow their research interests to become faculty at other institutions teaching the next generation of natural resource managers. Many more go on to work with state (Ryan, Shawn, John, Stephanie) or federal (Derrick, Brian, and Lindsey) agencies like Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) or the United States Forest Service as field biologists managing resources to provide sustainable use of multiple products from public lands. Brian, Scott and Ryan work for government agencies, focused on environmental compliance; they set standards and assure compliance for use of resources to protect public health and safety.
Jim, Jason and Lisa work for NGO’s (Non-Government special interest groups) aimed at preserving places and opportunities for future generations to appreciate the natural resources that exist there. Scott, Brent, and Shawn work for (or started their own) private firms that specialize in application of land management tools like prescribed fire, brush control, or wildlife population management to address private landowner needs.
Rosie, Wayne, and Gina work for private consulting firms specializing in mitigation; helping developers and corporations work through the maze of government regulations, or mitigating impacts on one area with improvements or conservation of another. Other students focus on impacts of humans on the environment. BJ and Toby assess the effects of toxic substances in our environment. Greg, Kara, and Benjie work with water quality ensuring that regulations are followed, conditions are measured, and our water is safe.
Several students, Chad, Tom, and Brian came from ranch or farm families and took the knowledge and skills gained with us back to manage their own natural resources. And yes, some like Randy do go on to be park rangers, while Andrew, Jennifer, and Genaro became state or federal game wardens.
In recent years more students have been finding jobs in municipal government and the commercial sector that relate to skills they learned while in NRM. Jenny and Stewart work with city planners to ensure environmental as well as cultural values are maintained. John and Brett are TPWD employees who regularly consult with developers and municipal planners about considering wildlife needs, values, and problems in the land use choices that must be made with urbanization. Opportunities are growing in the private sector as well.
Scott, Morgan, Brian, and Jen work in more traditional outlets as outdoor guides, in sales, or as training reps for outdoor companies like REI and Gander Mountain. Justin, Derek, Brandon and Clint run their own private hunting or guide services. Natural resources students are also well prepared to go on to other careers. Alison, Dylan, and Roger went on to become lawyers, often working on cases pertaining to impacts on our environment. Sage became a dentist and Cody is a doctor of physical therapy.
Traditionally, natural resources managers had to be skilled practitioners. They had to apply biological and ecological knowledge to make decisions about the wise use of the renewable resources: timber, range, wildlife, water, etc. that they were managing. They had to be able to talk with land owners, government administrators and policy makers, and rural citizens to work effectively.
However, as you can see from the range of jobs listed above, there many different jobs for natural resources students now. The natural resource manager in the field has to have all the traditional training plus communication skills, technological skills (e.g., data analysis, GIS, etc.) and practical experience to meet challenges facing managers today.
New careers are not just in rural areas anymore. With nearly 80 percent of the American public living in urban areas, there have been new problems and new roles for natural resources managers. State agencies, municipal governments, and private corporations now hire natural resources managers to work in cities. They work with local governments, urban planners, developers, architects and landscape designers to design human dominated landscapes that better mitigate environmental problems like water run-off, heat pollution, carbon sequestration, and even problem wildlife and diseases.
They also try to integrate ecological principles into new designs to retain desirable wildlife and natural areas and increase value and livability in new urban developments. These new challenges require additional skills and tools for working with more diverse professionals and publics. This is both the opportunity and great new challenge for Natural Resources Management in the future.