UM Wildlife Biology Program: Dr. Mark Hebblewhite

UM Wildlife Biology Program: Dr. Mark Hebblewhite


I was hired at the university as
an Ungulate Habitat Ecologist. Research that I’m doing right now
with my graduate students in my lab is understanding the effects of recolonizing carnivores, like restored grey wolves, or recovering grizzly bears, or mountain lions, on these cornerstone ungulate species like elk. It’s not a very easy question to ask:
Are carnivores actually having the effects that we think they’re having,
or people think they’re having, on elk populations? The state wildlife agency is struggling
to understand the effects of recovering carnivores, like wolves in this case,
on elk, and are under intense public scrutiny. These agencies have a management issue and I think because of the strong track record
of the Wildlife Biology Program, Dan Pletscher and his students, Bart O’Gara and his students,
they come to the Wildlife Biology Program. One of the things we have to remind ourselves about universities is that we don’t actually
manage wildlife or conserve wildlife. All we do is teach, and train, and do research on how to do it. When I sort of look at our undergraduate students
and graduate students, where they go and where their careers take them,
I’m blown away at how much luck they have. And the reason, I think, that our students end up having such success getting jobs with real hands-on,
applied wildlife management agencies is because of the strong collaboration that we have at our heart in pretty much all the undergraduate
and especially graduate research that we do. So, for me I couldn’t imagine, you know,
teaching in a better place than Missoula where all we have to do in the Wildlife Biology Program is sort of open our window and point at one of the most
pressing conservation issues facing wildlife. I really think that in some ways Montana is sort of a proving ground. A lot of the things have become so advanced
and so technologically driven, but fundamentally, those kinds of technologies
aren’t really I think what conservation needs or what students need to really learn
what it takes to do wildlife conservation. So, until we sort of understand that wildlife conservation is really — should be approached
in a community-based conservation framework that sees to the needs of the people
who live with the wildlife, we really won’t be that successful. And I think that these are
theoretical ways of understanding human and wildlife conflict, and human and carnivore conflict, that I learned here first hand by studying wolves, say, but that actually can translate immediately to help
a Bhutanese wildlife manager understand: “How do I keep the tigers on the landscape”? There’s no reason why the things we learn
about wolves here shouldn’t help us manage endangered carnivores around the world. We’re not afraid at the Wildlife Biology Program,
we’ve never been afraid, really, of asking really hard, challenging questions that challenge the status quo.

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One thought on “UM Wildlife Biology Program: Dr. Mark Hebblewhite

  1. In a setting such as public lands in Montana I can see focusing on wildlife conservation, but in places like Yellowstone I think it should be wildlife preservation.

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