DREW HENRY, Class of 2007
I attended graduate school at Iowa State University in the Department of Natural Resources, Ecology and Management. My fancy research title was "Winter Habitat Selection by Free Ranging Elk in the Brucellosis Endemic Area of Wyoming with Respect to Habitat Improvement Areas in the Buffalo Valley". My two major tasks were to place GPS collars on female elk, which monitored their movements every two hours. At the same time I was also monitoring their movements from the ground with telemetry equipment. I also established transects in my study area, which I visited every other week to take habitat and snow measurements. The transects were used in an effort to compare areas that had been improved using prescribed fire to areas that had not been "improved". I used the GPS data in a GIS to create models that identified selection based on a certain number of a priori parameters.
I currently work for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. I am the Region 6 Upland Game Bird Habitat Enhancement Biologist. I primarily work with private land owners to help improve the upland bird habitat on their property. This is done through a cost share program. Some of the habitat projects include creating nesting cover (usually through a cost share with the CRP program), building shelterbelts to create winter cover, planting food plots, wetland improvements, and implementing grazing systems to enhance existing prairie grass cover. These efforts in turn help to create better opportunities for non-game species as well, such as songbirds and even tiger salamanders.
Career Advice: I should only give advice as to the path that I wanted to take, which is one that put me in the field as a Biologist with either a state or federal agency. I knew I wanted to work with wildlife in some capacity. First off, summer experience doing anything as a technician is crucial. Not only does temporary technician work give you great knowledge about certain tasks, but it also beefs up your resume'. I did not go with the "Wildlife" route while I was at Minot State, instead I went with straight Biology. My field experience was key in getting myself into graduate school. Secondly, my research at Minot while I was in school was crucial. Research while attending school and technician work while you are out of school really shows off your work ethic and motivation.
If you plan to work in wildlife I would definitely recommend looking into some GIS training. This tool is being used more and more, and was a steep learning curve for me in Grad School. Also, if you plan to work with most state and any federal agency, there are specific education requirements. Particularly the number of botany credits required is surprising, and I have met many students preparing to graduate who realized they did not have enough to apply for the job they wanted. If you plan on grad school, study for the GRE but don't sweat it too much. I didn't study and I sweated it pretty bad (not a good combo), and I think I got pretty lucky. I would also recommend trying to get in on a pub with your advisor. This usually means doing some work/research with them and then getting in on the writing process. Advisors usually like this because they are short on time, and graduate schools love this because they can be rest assured that you may leave them with a publication, which makes them look better.
Finally, I think it is important to be able to communicate with people effectively. Most people who are fairly good at this usually know it, and that confidence continues to make them better at communicating. However, if you know that you have trouble in this area then definitely take the time to try to fix the problems. One great way that continues to help me is public presentations. My presentations usually come from my research, so you can kill two birds with one stone by taking that approach at Minot State. But, there is always speaking classes and the like, that will help out as well. I always try to remember that good eye contact and a firm handshake tells a person a lot about you before you say a single word. This is a big deal for me, since I meet so many folks in the field.