Wildlife Leadership Academy visits Penn State DuBois

banding and bird handling techniques with a gray catbird

Penn State DuBois Wildlife Technology student Zack Redmond demonstrates banding and bird handling techniques with a gray catbird captured during their banding exercise. Once processed, all birds are immediately released.

Credit: Penn State

DUBOIS, Pa. -- Members of the Wildlife Leadership Academy (WLA) spent the day exploring their educational options at Penn State DuBois on Monday, Sept. 23. Faculty and staff at the campus welcomed seven academy students in grades nine to12, from school districts across the state, as well as their families. They got an in-depth look at what the Penn State DuBois Wildlife Technology Program has to offer.

According to representatives from the WLA, the organization's mission is to engage high school age youth to become conservation ambassadors to ensure a sustained wildlife, fisheries and natural resource legacy for future generations. A year-round program, the academy begins with rigorous summer field schools that focus on wildlife biology and conservation, as well as development of leadership skills. It continues with community outreach through education, service, and interaction with media and the arts. The academy is based in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, but has field schools throughout the state.

“We take the students from high school, through career, and we want them to understand what career paths are available and how they can confirm and support their career interests,” said Katie Cassidy, a program and outreach coordinator for WLA.  “We’re here today to show them what Penn State DuBois has to offer and how they can prepare for their future, whether they want to work with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, or as a wildlife biologist, or in any number of fields.”

The students had ample opportunity to learn more about career paths that one can take as a graduate of the Wildlife Technology Program at Penn State DuBois. During their visit they participated in a bird banding exercises on a small piece of wetlands near campus, and met with admissions representatives to receive a complete description of the Wildlife Technology program and the professional opportunities that can be made possible by earning the degree, including those in conservation and natural resources, fisheries, forestry, and more.

The bird banding exercise, in particular, gave students a look at some of the work they might do as a wildlife or conservation professional. Instructor in Wildlife Technology Emily Perlock, as well as her wildlife technology students, led the demonstration, showing students how birds are captured in nets and fitted with bands on their legs that can be used to track them when they are captured again in different locations, or in coming years. The campus collaborates with other organizations through the Bird Banding Laboratory of the National Geologic Survey, using the information from these banded birds to determine migration patterns, habitat needs of different species, and more. The information then helps them to better manage habitat.

“Little patches like this near campus are really important. This proves that these places, even though it’s surrounded by development, can be really important to birds,” Perlock noted from the banding station in a small wet lands area in the middle of the city while she and her wildlife technology students examined a song sparrow and a gray catbird. 

Thomas said experiences like this also benefit her own students. She said, “The public is very interested in wildlife, so most people who work with wildlife go on to teach in some capacity. The way my students are interacting with and teaching students about this field work and the data they're collecting is very typical of the kinds of interactions they’ll have throughout their career.”

For others interested in the Wildlife Technology program at Penn State DuBois, Wildlife Visitation Days are planned for Friday, Oct. 4, and Friday, Nov. 15. To register, visit www.ds.psu.edu/visit or call 814-375-4720.