A graduate of Mississippi State College of Forest Resources took advantage of the recent opportunity to study wild pigs as a scholarship holder from a leading conservation agency, and his work focused on developing a prioritization tool for wild pig control at 108 national wildlife refuges in the Southeast.
Tyler Evans, a PhD student in wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture, was elected a board member of the US Fish and Wildlife Service last summer. The highly competitive 11-week career path program provides conservation expertise to current graduate and undergraduate students interested in a conservation career, with an emphasis on future employment opportunities at the USFWS. Upon completion of the program and any remaining degree requirements, a Direct Hire Authority certificate is issued, giving participants two years of eligibility after graduation to be shortlisted for jobs at USFWS.
A native of Salem, Ohio, he has been researching wild pigs on Sam for the past three years. D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge in Noxubee, Oktibbeha and Winston as part of his MSU PhD program.
“The current status of wild pigs on the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge is probably somewhere between light and moderate. to the numbers observed and the associated damage to the landscape, ”said Evans. “While the issue is certainly worrying, given the unique ecological value of this refuge, the status is likely to be inferior to a few other refuges in the Southeast, especially those that experience these invasions over an extended period of time.”
His USFWS Directorate Fellow project extended to his PhD research.
“I contacted shelter managers, biologists, project managers and people from other departments in the agency to define criteria for each shelter, which included the degree of infestation of wild pigs, if any, types of damage and any existing control measures,” he said.
From there, he assessed other criteria specific to each shelter, such as the impact of feral pigs on the primary purpose of each shelter and any sensitive species. He then built a simple multi-attribute evaluation (SMART) tool to assess how feral pigs might affect each location.
“I used the information I obtained from all sources to assign scores or numbers, for species classification, under 18 different attributes for each refuge. Eventually they were included in a tool that allows direct comparisons between consistent criteria and variable weighting of attributes against current / future USFWS priorities or similar considerations. The aim is to provide an easy way to integrate future information so that shelter management can continue to mitigate feral pigs in the areas. shelters, even if needs and priorities change over time, ”he explained.
Evans said he particularly liked the contacts established and the extensive experience the program provided.
“I have made lifelong friends with the agency’s current employees and other members of the Directorate Fellows Program, who I hope will also be my future colleagues. Although I gained a lot of hands-on field experience during my time in Mississippi, this program gave my much more rounded understanding of the National Wildlife Refuge System, especially regarding the wild pig issues in other refuges compared to Sam D.’s National Wildlife Refuge. Hamilton Noxubee, ”he said.
Bryan Watkins, USFWS National Invasive Species Coordinator who oversaw Evans, said the project would eventually change the agency’s situation.
“The Directorate Fellowship Program is the most important opportunity to define talented future professionals to fulfill the USFWS mission. Tyler definitely showcased a strong skill set that will benefit the mission in the future. The United States will be an integral part of our adaptive management approach that addresses threats from this invasive species to many of the important ecosystems entrusted to the USFWS, he said.
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