Missouri Western wildlife students win second international award

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St. Joseph, Mo. – For the second time in three years, The Wildlife Society Student Chapter at Missouri Western State University will receive an international award for excellence. The 2013 Outstanding Student Chapter Award from The Wildlife Society will be presented during the Society’s annual conference Oct. 5-10 in Milwaukee, Wis. Their chapter advisor will also receive a top honor.

“It’s really exciting,” said Chapter President Ben Olsen. “We were the first university student chapter in Missouri to win this, and to win it twice is awesome.”

Cary D. Chevalier, chapter advisor and biology professor, was named by The Wildlife Society as the International Chapter Advisor of the Year. This is the first time that a chapter and the advisor have won the award in the same year. Only five student chapters have won the award twice or more. The Missouri Western students also won in 2011.

The Wildlife Society includes more than 10,000 members, with most in the United States and Canada, who work in wildlife, conservation and environmental professions.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is a partner with the Missouri Western chapter. Many activities occur at the MDC Northwest Regional Office, which is on the Missouri Western campus. Students shadow MDC employees on the job. They also work on service or research projects. One key to the group’s success is that the undergraduate students are working with professors to do research on a graduate student level, said T.J. Peacher, an MDC conservation education supervisor. Most students also graduate as certified wildlife biologists under Society guidelines, which is usually accomplished in post-graduate work.

“The kids get good experience,” Peacher said. “They get to use real-world applications.”

The chapter’s 40 members also provide assistance for projects at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge and Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge in northwest Missouri.

“All of our partners have great staffs, including MDC, and they do a lot to help our students,” Olsen said.

But the chapter also owes a great deal of its success to Chevalier.

“He goes way above and beyond to help us and puts in a lot of long hours,” Olsen said. “He leads by example. Students run the chapter. But he does everything with us.”