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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Students go wild for conservation of local native species

From the tiniest ant to the bravest squirrel, one of the newest UC Davis clubs, Wild Campus, is working to conserve all native local wildlife species.

With 44 student members, 12 faculty members and numerous other community volunteers, Wild Campus has already seen a lot of growth since its establishment in Fall Quarter.

“Our main goals are preparing students for future professional endeavors with wildlife, education and habitat restoration,” said Julia Herring, club vice president and senior wildlife fish conservation major.

Wild Campus has two facets. The first are the wild naturalists, made up of eight teams, each focusing on a different local native species. The teams are ants, bats, bees, ground squirrels, owls, reptiles and amphibians, songbirds and mapping. This is the side that involves going out and doing hands-on research.

The other side of Wild Campus is the Wild Ambassadors. The ambassadors have two teams, one being education and outreach, the other being marketing and design.

“The wild naturalists are specialized in focusing on a particular native species in doing what they can to preserve them and make a better habitat for them to make sure that they are thriving,” said Mary Watson, ambassador director and a senior wildlife fish conservation major. “The wildlife ambassadors are more about educating the public and inspiring the public, trying to inform individuals why we should even care about these animals and how they are important and lastly how we can help them and [what] you can do on an everyday basis to help preserve them.”

Watson described how important it is to not only directly help wildlife, but to also educate others.

“[It’s about] getting other people excited about it and inspiring other people and then trying to inspire them to inspire other people,” Watson said. “I just want to get people passionate and realize how awesome these animals are and how they are very crucial to our existence. Wildlife and animals are all intertwined; it’s a delicate balance and they serve vital roles — without them it would be very hard for us to survive.”

The idea of Wild Campus was created by senior wildlife and conservation biology major Quinn Morgan, the club’s president.

“I grew up in Davis and have witnessed quite a few composition changes in the native species around here,” Morgan said. “This is a way to get students involved in something with a beneficial impact and at the same time getting them experience in the world as a biologist.”

Not only does Wild Campus prove to be beneficial to the environment, but it is also a valuable research opportunity for many students within the field.

“Wild Campus is important because it is really giving students the opportunity to get hands-on experience as undergrads,” Herring said.

Morgan said that while there are similar internship opportunities for students, few were actually on campus and therefore required a vehicle that many UC Davis students do not have.

Also, with the high number of faculty, this club allows students within the field of conservation biology to have a closer connection to those within the department.

“This has connected me with a lot of staff and faculty that I would never have been able to talk to otherwise,” Herring said. “I thought it was such a cool idea to have more students connecting with faculty and I just thought it was a great way to get more people involved.”

Wild Campus is partnered with another group on campus called Wild Forces. Wild Forces is a volunteer community service-oriented group that puts on events through Wild Campus.

“We’re really trying to connect UC Davis and the community through our volunteer events and just having a great impact on our environment by restoring habitat,” Herring said.

It is different because, while Wild Campus requires an application process and is restricted to students, Wild Forces gives any community member the opportunity to directly help with conservation efforts, such as “build-a-wild-home day” that took place in February, to help people in the community build nesting boxes for owls, bats and songbirds.

“A lot of native species are becoming endangered not only in Davis but all over the world with climate change and human expansion,” Herring said. “I think it’s really important. We have such a great opportunity here in Davis to protect what we have and that is what Wild Campus is trying to achieve: helping protect our local native wildlife while we still can.”

Something that Morgan, Herring and Watson all have in common is their interest in the efforts put forth by the program that is shared by the rest of the Wild Campus members. And while all of them are majors in this field, Watson said being in the major is not a requirement to join.

“It’s just a really great opportunity if students are interesting in wildlife conservation,” Herring said. “It’s a great way to get more connected with more faculty in our department and get some experience that you wouldn’t otherwise get; you can also collaborate with other students with similar interests and just help make a difference.”

To apply for a position with Wild Campus in the fall, or a leadership position in the spring, e-mail wildcampus411@gmail.com or visit their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/MyWildCampus.

DEVON BOHART can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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