SOUTHWICK – On Monday, when twenty Westfield State University students led by John McDonald, assistant professor of environmental science, traveled to the Southwick Wildlife Management Area to help staff members from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) with a conservation project, they also received practical advice on how to get a job in the field.
The students, who are taking McDonald’s wildlife and ecology management class, were there to help build vernal pools as a breeding habitat for the state-threatened Eastern Spadefoot toad. While waiting for the pool liners to arrive, McDonald urged his students to ask questions of the DFW staff, who he said have the jobs they want.
“What’s a good entry level position?” junior Eli King of Hinsdale asked.
Dave Fuller, a district wildlife biologist for the DFW, said technician II and seasonal work, which he said is more available in Conn. Forests & Parks than in Mass. was a good place to start. Fuller said they do hire some seasonal workers in Mass. to help stock pheasant in the fall.
Walt Tynan, who is a wildlife technician II, said he works for the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) in the summer, and DFW the rest of the year. He stocks fish and pheasants. He said over the weekend he did a bear check. He also mows fields. He says the agency is short on manpower, and “everybody gets thrown into doing everything.”
Tynan, who has a 4-year environmental science degree, encouraged the students to “take everything you can, get as many licenses as you can.” He said they use a 2.5 ton truck to stock trout, which requires a special license.
“It’s good to know how to drive a boat,” he said.
He said he makes bluebird boxes, then weed whacks around them, adding that it’s good to know how to fix the weed whacker when you’re out in the field and nobody’s around.
“Be a general handyman,” he said. “Get to know how to use a firearm.”
“At the districts, we rely on people with a lot of nuts & bolts knowledge,” Fuller said. “I went through seven years of college. One of the reasons they hired me is that I grew up on a dairy farm, and could use farm equipment.”
Eli King said his goal is to join the environmental police as a game warden. He thinks working for the DFW first would be good experience.
Joshua Minardi from East Longmeadow, a senior who majors in environmental science major, hopes to get a job in the environmental wildlife field, where he can have a positive impact on endangered species and wildlife. Minardi said he has worked at Camp Horace A. Moses in Russell as a member of the maintenance crew, operating machinery, and clearing trails.
Meaghan Kwiecinski, a senior from Easthampton also studying environmental science, said she is an outdoor educator interested in conservation and preservation. She currently works as an intern, along with Alex Hiller of East Longmeadow at the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission. Hiller, who minors in Geographic Information Systems, has been editing in service lines for the agency into Google Earth.
“We stress a lot of academics in college, but you want to be able to address as many skills as possible,” McDonald, who was recently elected president of The Wildlife Society, an international society of wildlife professionals, said.
He told them if they’ve used a chain saw, driven a boat, have a hunter’s license or taken hunter safety, it’s all helpful.
McDonald previously worked for the DFW as a project leader for white-tailed deer management.e also was the 2014 recipient of The Wildlife Society’s John Pearce Memorial Award for outstanding professional accomplishments in wildlife conservation in the Northeast.