With the single largest donation that Moultrie Technical College (MTC) has received in the school’s 50-year history, benefactor Clarence Smith’s gift of 107 acres of beautiful wooded property on Perdue Road in Tift County in 2007 opened wide the field for the beginnings of MTC’s Fish and Wildlife Management program.
The tract of land is used as an on-site laboratory environment for 22 students currently enrolled but has seen 33 graduates of the hands-on program since the first class of students received diplomas in 2010. The program is only one of four within the Technical College System of Georgia, with other programs housed at Ogeechee Tech, Southeastern Tech and Southwest Georgia Tech.
According to MTC’s program chair and instructor Jeremy Anderson, a full-time student can complete the diploma program in four semesters, or approximately 1 1/2 years, and head into a career in the field.
Current students Hunter Allyn, 24, and Don Mims, 21, both of Colquitt County, are well on their way to doing just that. Allyn lacks just two core general education courses toward graduation before he plans to start a career in the commercial fishing industry in Alaska, while guiding quail hunts on plantations in the off-season. He is already using the skills he has learned under Anderson’s instruction in a part-time position at Southern Woods Plantation in Worth County.
Mims recently finished his course work and graduated from MTC with a diploma in Fish and Wildlife Management in December 2014. However, he doesn’t plan to stop there. With Moultrie Tech’s upcoming merger with Southwest Georgia Tech based in hunting plantation-rich Thomasville in July 2015, Mims will be able to continue his education and work toward an associate degree in Land, Forest and Wildlife Management and possibly be one of the first graduates of the new Southern Regional Technical College (pending SACSCOC approval).
With their 20 fellow classmates, Allyn and Mims have learned skills such as how to manage populations and habitats benefiting both game and nongame species; correctly apply prescribed fire techniques; manage private and public ponds and hatcheries; correctly operate equipment such as tractors, chainsaws and outboard motor boats; trap furbearing and nuisance wildlife; handle and train bird dogs and horses; and act as guides on hunting plantations.
Anderson, who joined the MTC faculty in early 2014, holds a master’s degree in biology with an emphasis on ecology from Georgia Southern University. He came to Moultrie Tech after serving at the Fort Stewart Fish and Wildlife Management Branch as a biological technician working with endangered and threatened species.
He says of his favorite part about teaching students, “It is seeing them get a job that they are going to enjoy going to. By managing wildlife and their habitats, they have a feeling that they have accomplished something great at the end of the day.”
That sense of accomplishment for graduates can be gained through careers in positions such as hunting guides and bird dog handlers and trainers on public and private plantations; as technicians and conservation rangers with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources; as federal wildlife officers, technicians and wildland firefighters under the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA; as nuisance wildlife trappers in urban and rural areas; as GIS/GPS technicians; as environmental consultants; and in many jobs with organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, the Orianne Society, Ducks Unlimited and the National Wild Turkey Federation.
Student Becky Crawford, 33, has dreams of her own for her career future in a field she was raised in as the daughter of renowned southwest Georgia wildlife artist Randy Gibbs. As a first-semester student in a career field considered non-traditional for women, she says it helps her feel like a stronger person, having the knowledge of how to properly use and maintain equipment in the field.
“I grew up being outside and enjoying the outdoors. There is no other program I would rather be in than Fish and Wildlife Management at Moultrie Technical College, because it gives me the opportunity to be outdoors,” says Crawford of the hands-on training she is receiving through MTC.
Anderson says students and graduates like Allyn, Crawford and Mims could see changes in their career fields in the near future through technological advances that may influence the way wildlife is managed. He says this includes the ever-changing GIS, or geographic information system, and drone technology that would change methods for keeping up with populations and other parameters.
“Overall, the future looks bright as we embark into the field of fish and wildlife management in the 21st century, and I am excited to be a part of it,” says Anderson.