The Evolution Of University Programs and The Needs Of Natural Resources Agencies: Coevolution Or Divergence?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013: 11:20 AM
Fulton (Statehouse Convention Center)
James R. Jackson , Department of Natural Resources, Cornell Biological Field Station, Cornell University, Bridgeport, NY
David W. Willis , Natural Resource Management, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD
Douglas Stang , Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY
Historical trends in education of fisheries professionals reveal a tradition of active partnerships between government agencies and universities.  Soon after the establishment of the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries in 1871, Commissioner Spencer Baird incorporated university professors and their students in research programs at the biological laboratories and summer surveys.  Despite these opportunities, as early as 1918, the American Fisheries Society recognized the need for providing greater access to specific training for future fisheries professionals, a process that universities would figure prominently in.  By the 1920s, several universities had begun offering specific coursework in the field of fisheries, and students were gaining practical experience in survey work and research on practical problems sponsored by state agencies.  Much of the early emphasis in fisheries education was at the graduate level, with specialized fishery work following an undergraduate education in biology.  By the mid-1900s, recognition of agency needs for entry-level employees led many universities to begin offering undergraduate degrees in fisheries and related fields with suitable coursework developed for this purpose.  More recently, enrollment in traditional university natural resources programs has declined, while participation in broader environmental sciences programs has increased.  The implications of universities shifting emphases to accommodate a changing student demographic include reduction in availability of traditional fisheries coursework and a decline in suitably trained graduates for agencies.  We will review the history of university/agency partnerships in fisheries education and trends in university curricula to assess the degree to which priorities have diverged.