May 2023 Edition | Volume 77, Issue 5
Published since 1946
Right Place at the Right Time
As Henry David Thoreau so aptly put it, “the meeting of two eternities, the past and future....is precisely the present moment.” At this present moment and as I think about the incredible opportunity I’ve been provided to serve as the Wildlife Management Institute’s (WMI) next president, I can’t help but simultaneously ponder both the past that brought me here and the future that lies ahead. I think about my unique pathway and valued partnerships of the past that led me to this present moment. We all have unique paths and journeys that often cross one another’s in this small world of conservation and although complicated and curious, what I’m writing about here is not the past. I’m writing about a vision for the future of conservation and WMI, a future filled with hope and excitement.
Following in the footsteps of Steve Williams after his 18-year stint at the helm is a little intimidating. Of course, Steve’s broad knowledge, extensive relationships, and vast array of experiences in the conservation arena are widely known and daunting in and of themselves for anyone following him. Furthermore, taking a leadership role in an organization that Steve and Scot Williamson have together significantly influenced and structured can also be a compelling reason to enter this new role with a cautious status quo approach. Although comfortable, and consequently commonplace, I don’t believe that maintaining the status quo leads an organization to greatness.
I am not implying that WMI is not already great. As a matter of fact, it is the admiration and immense respect I have for the organization that led to me wanting and seeking the opportunity to follow Steve as president. I have long-admired WMI, its mission, and the amazing staff. The staff and board of WMI are a huge comfort to me as I assume this role. I was recently asked by a friend if I was apprehensive in taking over for Steve as president. I quickly answered “no,” and that is primarily because of the high level of confidence I have in those around me. The staff and board at WMI are incredible. To a person, they are exceptionally intelligent and equally passionate conservation professionals that I excitedly learn from with every opportunity for engagement. I am confident that the knowledge and combined skill sets within WMI can successfully address virtually any conservation challenge.
WMI’s combined history and collective brainpower make it the logical convener of so many past and present conservation-related discussions and efforts. Since 1911, WMI has advanced wildlife science and been at the center of numerous meaningful conservation endeavors. WMI’s mission and historic significance, along with its brilliant staff, tell me it’s the right place for me to be and the pressing and emerging issues of conservation make it the right time to be here.
In evolutionary biology there exists the hypothesis of punctuated equilibrium that suggests evolutionary development is marked by isolated episodes of rapid speciation between long periods of little or no change. I believe the field of conservation is entering a period analogous to rapid speciation in a punctuated equilibrium type scenario. The tools of our trade have never been better, the impacts of human population growth and climate change never more apparent, constructs and concepts to frame and act on these challenges never more relevant, and funding initiatives with which to address them seldom more abundant.
I firmly believe that WMI is the right place and now is the right time to make meaningful differences for wildlife and the conservation field and I feel incredibly lucky for the opportunity to be a part of it. I am neither fearful nor trepidatious as WMI pursues today’s conservation challenges largely because of the company I keep in WMI’s current and former staff. I am excited to work with great focus on our collective conservation challenges and I am hungry for solutions. The pursuit and realization of solutions for conservation-related challenges and the advancement of wildlife science and wildlife conservation fuels my soul.
Thoreau also writes, “How prompt we are to satisfy the hunger and thirst of our bodies; how slow to satisfy the hunger and thirst of our souls!”
I’m excited for WMI to continue to be party to conservation-related rewards adequate to satisfy the hunger and thirst of many souls in the conservation arena.