Conference broadened students' interests in fisheries, wildlife careers

From left, Jack Hilgert, Alex Otto, Camden Oathout, and Ally Beard
From left, Jack Hilgert, Alex Otto, Camden Oathout, and Ally Beard

Going to the 2019 American Fisheries Society and The Wildlife Society Joint Annual Conference was a once in a lifetime experience.

We initially learned about the conference this past spring semester, and after seeing the professional and educational value of the conference, we began to plan how to get ourselves there. Our main goal as a group was to build relations between the Cornhusker Student Subunit of the American Fisheries Society and the Wildlife Club. Individually, we wanted to build skills and connections within our respective interests.

After arriving in Reno, we took an early excursion to Lake Tahoe on Sunday afternoon. Connecting with this unique landscape - definitely a different terrain from what we see in Nebraska - really put us in a great mindset going into the conference.

Throughout the week we attended various sessions, workshops, networking events, and symposia about a myriad of fisheries and wildlife topics. For the two of us that are current Wildlife Club officers, Camden and Jack, there were several events curtailed for current officers to help them better develop their student chapters. These gave us great ideas on how to expand the club’s current offerings and further improve the undergraduate student experience for Fisheries and Wildlife and other School of Natural Resource students.

The networking events gave us several chances to meet experts in the field from around the country, and most of these professionals provided insightful advice about our professional pathways moving forward.

Besides these development opportunities, we received a front row seat to listen to presentations on some of the newest data and findings in almost every emphasis imaginable. As it was a combined conference for both the wildlife and fisheries societies, we had the opportunity to listen to lectures that focused on both fields of study - which was a unique opportunity in and of itself. All of these events filled our days in Reno from sunrise to sunset, but every moment of this momentous meeting was so enjoyable and educational that we did not want to miss one minute.

Throughout the conference, there were ample opportunities for each of us to connect with professionals from the various fields we are interested in ranging from marine science to environmental education to conservation biology. Each had their own advice on what our next steps might be to be successful in this career field and were always willing to give us contact information in case we had more questions. We all walked away with new ideas about what the future might hold for someone seeking a career in fisheries or wildlife and some of the key steps to get there.

The conference had so much to offer from talks about new research findings and techniques to networking with students and faculty from around the nation. While we all had our respective interests, the conference allowed us to broaden them and discover interests we had not thought about before. That was the beauty of a first ever joint conference between fisheries and wildlife. As big as the conference was and embodying both fisheries and wildlife there was a common thread throughout, conservation.

As students, we met and listened to professionals in their field beg the importance of our responsibility to both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. What we took home from the conference, whether you’re a fisheries or wildlife person we all share a common goal, conservation.

Camden Oathout, Ally Beard, Jack Hilgert, and Alex Otto, fisheries and wildlife majors, for the School of Natural Resources