Networking in nature

MARQUETTE – Anyone studying wildlife and its management needs to get out of the classroom every now and then.

Students pursuing degrees and careers related to natural resources and wildlife are encouraged to attend the Midwest Wildlife Society Student Conclave set for April 11-13 at Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay.

The Northern Michigan University student chapter of The Wildlife Society will host the event.

Kayla Ruth, NMU Wildlife Society president and a junior majoring in biology with an ecology emphasis, said a wide variety of activities, including wilderness first aid and telemetry, will be offered.

There also might be a bonfire at the beach, although that’s dependent on the “iffy” weather, she said.

“It could be 50 degrees or 4 feet of snow,” Ruth said. “You just don’t know.”

The activities included electroshocking, which involves students wearing waders in the water and catching fish to measure them.

No fish are expected to be harmed in the making of this conclave.

“They’re just stunned,” Ruth said, “and then you can collect them.”

A photography contest for pictures of insects, landscapes and the like as well as a quiz bowl will be offered, she said. A field techniques competition will involve students being judged on things like identification and definitions. They also will be asked the occasional, “How do you do this?”

The basics of wilderness first aid (not certification), Ruth said, will be offered as well.

“A lot of people don’t know what to do in certain situations, and up here in the U.P., there’s a lot to worry about,” she said.

Another possibility, according to Ruth, is a wolf-management seminar that would entail a roundtable discussion. The topic is a big deal in Michigan now, she said. (The gray wolf now is a designated game species, a decision that’s caused controversy between wildlife management groups and some animal organizations.)

“It’s nice to get people interested in it, and it’s a good way to teach people about wildlife management,” Ruth said.

So far, students from Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois are attending the conclave – the first time the NMU chapter has hosted it or even taken part in the annual event, she said.

“We definitely want to give them as many hands-on experiences as possible, because you only learn so much in a classroom,” Ruth said.

Shaley Valentine, a sophomore majoring in zoology acting as conclave Student Leader Fellowship Program intern, stressed that to get a job in wildlife management or natural resources, students need a lot of experience. Not having participated in hands-on activities could lead to a desk job, she said.

“A lot of employers are looking for this experience already,” Valentine said.

Valentine said she particularly is looking forward to learning techniques in wildlife capture and how they can be used in research.

Ruth noted streams and birding areas are being staked out in advance of the event, but activities, it is hoped, will be kept close to Bay Cliff.

“We really want to give people as many options as possible to further their skills,” Ruth said.