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Saturday, October 16, 2021

University discontinues avian sciences undergraduate major

After extensive discussion and review by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (A&ES) Executive Committee, the avian sciences undergraduate major has officially been closed.

“In the future, students interested in the study of biology and management of birds will have choices in at least three majors,” said Ed DePeters, master adviser of the animal science major and chair of last year’s A&ES Executive Committee, in an e-mail interview. “Animal science, animal science & management and wildlife, fish and conservation biology.”

The avian sciences major was once offered through the department of avian sciences (AVS), but the department has since merged into the animal science (ANS) department, said ANS professor Annie King. The administrative offices for the two departments merged in 1995 and began operating unofficially as a single department in July 1997.

DePeters said that there were two academic reasons for closing the major. Students that are an animal science major can choose to specialize into a discipline area such as neurobiology, physiology and behavior, or specialize in a species, such as AVS. The courses required for an AVS major and an ANS major with a specialization in AVS greatly overlapped. The ANS majors as well as the animal science and management majors have the option of specializing in poultry.

Additionally, DePeters noted that the wildlife, fish and conservation biology (WFC) program offers avian courses, for example WFC 111: Biology and Conservation of Wild Birds and WFC 111L: Laboratory in Biology and Conservation of Wild Birds, and that birds are discussed in numerous WFC courses. Biology and Conservation of Wild Birds is also accepted as a substitute for AVS 100: Avian Biology for an ANS major specializing in avian sciences because the course material is similar.

“Thus, students interested in birds have three options within two large majors,” he said. “So there was duplication with the avian sciences major and two other large majors.”

The second reason for the closure of the major was that the faculty agreed it was unfair to require courses for a major that were no longer offered or only offered in alternative years, DePeters said. There have been too many faculty members lost to teach all the avian sciences courses.

“[It’s] similar to what is happening across campus with reduced state budgets,” DePeters said. “We have fewer faculty, and we have fewer faculty to teach.”

DePeters said that there are eight AVS courses that are no longer taught even though the courses are still listed in the general catalog. There are 16 formal courses offered in avian sciences, so 50 percent of the courses are no longer available for students that are AVS majors.

Furthermore, very few students have declared to be an AVS major. In fall 2010, there were only 10 declared AVS majors, compared to 729 ANS majors, 85 animal science and management majors and 31 agricultural and environmental education majors, DePeters said. Still, current students that have declared the AVS major will still be able to complete their degree.

One recent misconception was that along with the undergraduate program, the graduate program in avian sciences was also being discontinued. However, the graduate program received an excellent review from the Graduate Council’s Program Review Committee and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, said Chris Calvert, professor in the animal science department and faculty assistant of the dean of Graduate Studies.

“The Graduate Council closes the review and schedules the next review when the council is satisfied that the group under review has responded adequately to any recommendations, concerns or questions,” Calvert said. “In the case of the Avian Sciences Graduate Group, the review was initiated in 2008 and closed in 2010. The next review is scheduled for 2015.”

Angelique Crest, a senior AVS major, said that her required courses did become less available and that she was unable to take some due to time constraints. She noted that a specialization in avian sciences could be thorough enough.

“I believe that the specialization could be sufficient enough to teach the material,” she said.

MARTHA GEORGIS can be reached at the campus@theaggie.org.

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