The mission of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (FW) at Michigan State University (MSU) is to provide the education, research and outreach needed by society for the conservation and rehabilitation of fish and wildlife resources and their ecosystems. Our department seeks to educate students who, upon completion of their undergraduate degree, will be prepared to successfully enter a job market, obtain entry into graduate school and continue to contribute their perspectives, skills and talent to conservation and resource stewardship throughout their lives. Seven goals were developed to provide an operational framework for our Department’s educational mission. These goals provide the foundational structure for our undergraduate curriculum.
GOAL 1: Students will be able to apply knowledge of complex socio-ecological systems to develop, implement, and evaluate natural resource management strategies.
Students need to understand how natural resources are imbedded within a complex and interactive physical, biological and social environment, and how these components can be manipulated via management to achieve societal goals. In this context, management should be broadly viewed to include direct manipulations of animal populations, their habitats and human behavior, values and efforts aimed at engaging people about natural resource systems. Although not all of our students will become natural resource managers, they should all have the ability to develop natural resource management strategies following a logical, science-based management process. Thus, if their career path takes them into research, they will have an appreciation for how research supports and enhances natural resource management. Likewise, if their career path takes them into community service, NGO involvement, or non-fisheries and wildlife careers, these students will possess the desire to view natural resource management issues critically and to be involved in activities that effectively address these complexities.
Portions of this goal overlap with goals of allied fields such as zoology and botany that serve as foundational sciences. One of the key differences is that effective resource management requires an understanding of the natural environment, and the legal, social, political, and economic dimensions of ecosystems.
GOAL 2: Students will understand the range of social values and philosophies that can be applied to natural resource management and possess a professional perspective that recognizes and integrates this range of philosophies into a science-based approach to management.
Our pluralistic society presents a complex of values and philosophies that can be applied to natural resource management at different levels; often these applications conflict. For example, animal welfare and rights philosophies that are applied to the organismal level often conflict with conservation and even preservation philosophies of population or ecosystem management. The strong traditional role of utilitarian values in the conservation philosophy of our professions often conflicts with preservation philosophy, even though the potential exists to effectively integrate them in many interests. Our students should understand conservationist and preservationist philosophies and be motivated to implement a balanced resource management approach when appropriate. They must be knowledgeable of animal welfare and animal rights philosophies and the difficulties in applying such philosophies to wildlife populations versus individual animals. Students should understand these and other philosophies and accommodate them where they do not interfere with the priority to manage ecological systems.
GOAL 3: Students will have broad scientific knowledge from a variety of disciplines necessary to form the foundation for more advanced science-based courses.
In addition to understanding the process of science and the limitations of this process, students require knowledge of scientific “facts” from a variety of disciplines to appreciate integrative aspects covered in more advanced courses. These “core” science classes are also important to provide students with a broad scientific training, allowing them to later pursue more focused areas within fishery and wildlife science.
GOAL 4: Students will value science as a basis for problem solving in natural resource management, be able to apply scientific processes and knowledge to professional decision-making, and have a foundation to become an effective contributor to science-based resource knowledge.
Ours is a science-based profession and our undergraduate program must adequately prepare students in the philosophy, findings and processes of science so that they possess the skills and attitude to successfully apply science to their natural resource-related career. Although someone entering the profession with a B.S. degree should be able to make limited contributions to scientific knowledge, a specialized career as a researcher in natural resources will require an advanced degree. Our curriculum, however, must provide students the foundations required for further development of research skills if desired.
GOAL 5: Students will be able to think quantitatively and apply quantitative tools to answer natural resource management and research questions.
Research and management in fisheries and wildlife are highly quantitative endeavors. Effective management requires quantitative predictions about the dynamic responses of populations and ecosystems to natural and human-imposed drivers. Effective researchers and managers must think critically and quantitatively about natural resource problems.
GOAL 6: Students will be aware of a suite of field, laboratory, and computer-based techniques for studying and managing natural resource systems and will be able to use and apply those techniques appropriate to the student’s specific career interests.
An understanding of complex ecosystems and their management requires proficient use and integration of field, laboratory, and computer-associated techniques. The breadth of the fisheries and wildlife field precludes students from achieving even an introductory level mastery of all the techniques used by natural resource professionals. Students should be familiar with a diversity of techniques used in the fisheries and wildlife fields, and develop proficiency with a subset of those techniques appropriate to their individual interests and future professional plans. Proficiency should include not only an ability to implement these techniques and interpret their findings, but also the ability to identify assumptions, and potential biases or shortcomings associated with specific techniques and their application to particular natural resource management scenarios. Students should also develop attitudes and abilities conducive to remaining current with emerging new techniques with application to novel resource management challenges.
GOAL 7: Students will be able to effectively communicate with a diversity of audiences.
Effective, concise and appropriate communication skills (e.g., written and oral, verbal and non-verbal) are extremely important to the natural resource professional. Employers of our students continue to express the need for students to have more and better communication skills. Students majoring in fisheries and wildlife must be able to write effective letters, technical reports, plans, and publications for professional and lay audiences, and be able to convey their work orally to diverse audiences. They must be prepared as communicators who are effective listeners and sensitive to the use of body language. Additional interpersonal communication skills of value in today’s society include the abilities of communicating inter-generationally and cross-culturally. Beyond the technical aspects of speaking and writing, students must have adequate skills in the principles of persuasion, facilitation, conflict management, and other useful communication tools.