Big in biology

Students of UND’s Wildlife Society post another strong showing at national conference in North Carolina

John Palarski

Vice President of The Wildlife Society of UND John Palarski, whose research focuses on waterfowl in central North Dakota, was one several UND students who presented their research at The Wildlife Society’s national conference held recently in Raleigh, N.C. Photo courtesy of the UND Biology Department.

When UND Assistant Professor of Biology Susan Felege starts planning a student experience, she doesn’t think small.

That’s why, when she started working out logistics for The Wildlife Society’s (TWS) 23rd Annual Conference, she had no problem organizing 15 students for the fall trip to Raleigh, N.C.

“For a fairly small wildlife program, we had a huge presence at the conference as one of the largest student groups,” Felege said. “Most universities bring maybe half a dozen students. We have hit the radar as one of the strongest wildlife programs for student involvement.”

The mixed group of UND graduate and undergraduate students spent Oct. 15-19 rubbing elbows with other biology and wildlife students and professionals at the Raleigh Convention Center. Felege’s group had opportunities to attend educational seminars, networking events and panel discussions, and many also presented posters detailing their latest research projects. One of those presenters was UND TWS Chapter Vice President John Palarski, whose research focuses on waterfowl in central North Dakota.

“With (Dr. Felege’s) guidance, I was able to include statistical and analytical components to my poster that are well above my ‘junior’ status,” Palarski said. “Without her help, I wouldn’t have been able to present the poster I did, or include high-level analysis that was vital to making my poster effective.”

UND Wildlife Society

UND Biology professors Susan Felege (kneeling in front) and Jay Boulanger (far right) led a group of 15 UND students to The Wildlife Society’s annual conference in North Carolina. Photo courtesy of the UND Biology Department.

This was the second TWS conference for UND Chapter President Lucas Knowlton. Although he didn’t present, the fisheries and wildlife biology junior from Red Wing, Minn., said he soaked up an incredible amount from the experience.

“We had the opportunity to gain valuable insight on professional development, internships, graduate school and any general advice,” Knowlton said. “This allows the students to get their names out there and build strong connections for the future.”

Along with networking and sharing research, Knowlton and his chapter officer team attended a Student Leader Luncheon to talk about the future of the organization.

“It allowed the officers to get new ideas, plan upcoming events and learn what works best — or not at all — for other chapters regarding involvement, fundraising, professional development and more,” Knowlton said.

Many of the UND students who presented at the conference obtained funding for the trip through research grants, but additional help was provided through alumni donations and personal funds. Felege adds that some of the undergraduate research was funded by the UND College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research/Creative Activity Initiative.

In 2015, The TWS conference was held in Winnipeg, making it easier for a larger number of UND students to make the trip. Twenty-two attended that year, making UND the most represented student chapter. Felege hopes student interest and participation continues to grow.

“I am super proud of these students,” Felege beamed. “They all worked hard to get to this conference by doing research, writing grants and representing UND. They are the future of wildlife conservation and they are making every effort to prepare themselves for this career. They are truly great ambassadors for our University, and I am always complimented for their professionalism.”