WCU group excels at Southeastern Wildlife Conclave

Students representing Western Carolina University’s natural resource conservation and management and biology programs competed against students from 21 other universities across the Southeast and won both the quiz bowl and team competition at the recent Southeastern Wildlife Conclave held in Southern Pines.

WCU’s student team placed fifth in the final overall standings at the conclave, which was hosted by the student chapter of the Wildlife Society from N.C. State University. The University of Georgia was the overall winner of the event, followed by the University of Tennessee in second place and Haywood Community College in third.

“I am really proud that our students were able to hold their own when competing head-to-head against these much larger programs,” said Peter Bates, head of WCU’s Department of Geosciences and Natural Resources.

Six members of WCU’s Wildlife and Forestry Club represented the university at the conclave. The event is held annually to provide college students with hands-on training in wildlife management and conservation. Activities available to students, in addition to the quiz bowl and team competition, include field trips, game-calling competitions, art and photography contests, guest speakers and other opportunities for professional development.

Three undergraduate students majoring in natural resource conservation and management – Mike McCloy, Amber Holland and Nathan Shepherd – were joined by biology graduate student Daniel Sollenberger in making up WCU’s quiz bowl team at the conclave. The four students went undefeated during the two-day double elimination quiz bowl and beat a team from the University of Georgia during the final two rounds.

McCloy said the WCU students entered the quiz bowl knowing they had the ability to do well. “In the back of our minds we were hoping for a victory,” he said. “However, it still took us by surprise when we actually won.”

Holland said a key to the strong showing “was having a team comprised of people from various backgrounds and educations. Also, having a very knowledgeable graduate student on our team definitely helped,” she said.

The four quiz bowl competitors were joined in the conclave’s team competition by two other undergraduate students majoring in natural resource conservation and management, Scherita Cambridge and Brent Mills. Working together, the six students collectively won first place in that contest by answering a variety of resource-related questions dealing with topics such as identification of reptiles, amphibians, birds and plant seeds, said Ron Davis, assistant professor of natural resource conservation and management and adviser for the WCU club.

McCloy described the team competition as “a big outdoor lab where you have a very limited amount of time to run from one station to the next over strenuous terrain and obstacles, answer the questions at the station, hand in your answer sheets, and be ready to go to the next one.”

In addition to recording top finishes in the quiz bowl and field competition, two individual members of the WCU team brought home first-place awards. Cambridge placed first in the wildlife drawing competition, and Sollenberger won the top prize in the lab practicum, the second-straight year he has done that, Davis said.

Davis said the WCU Wildlife and Forestry Club was “just an idea” two years ago. WCU students competed at the conclave for the first time last year and finished eighth overall and tied for seventh place in the quiz bowl. They were voted best new student chapter. “To make such a strong showing at the regional conclave in both 2012 and 2013 is really impressive,” Davis said.

For more information about the club and its activities, contact Davis at 828-227-2726 or rdavis@wcu.edu.

This creation by WCU student Scherita Cambridge won first place in the conclave wildlife drawing competition.

This creation by WCU student Scherita Cambridge won first place in the conclave wildlife drawing competition.