The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, an organization dedicated to preserving America's elk-hunting heritage, recently recognized six outstanding student conservation leaders from across the country through its scholarship program by rewarding each of them with a Wildlife Leadership Award (WLA). The WLA isn't just an honor for these young conservationists, however; there's a $3,000 scholarship for the college juniors and seniors who earn the accolade.
"Each of the recipients has shown through their studies and their passion that they want to make a real difference for wildlife and wild landscapes," said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. "We hope this recognition will provide a stepping stone to help them further their careers."
Through this year, the scholarship program has awarded a total of $261,000 to 159 students who represent 57 universities across the United States and Canada. Dozens of recipients pursued careers in wildlife-related fields, and at least four of the recipients eventually became RMEF employees.
Below is a list of the 2014 Wildlife Leadership Award winners:
A one-time high school dropout, Chelsea Brock maintains a 3.99 GPA studying wildlife management at Eastern Kentucky University. She is the first in her family to attend college and plans to pursue a master's degree in wildlife or fisheries biology.
Adopted from China, Hannah Clipp maintains a 4.0 GPA in wildlife and fisheries resources at West Virginia University. She is also minoring in conservation ecology, biology and English. Clipp plans to pursue a Ph.D. in wildlife biology and hopes to work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or similar agency.
A self-confessed lover of snakes, lizards, frogs and salamanders, Matt Gideon is earning a bachelor's degree in fisheries and wildlife biology at Arkansas Tech University. Already serving as the president of the school's Herpetology Society, he wants to help kids put down their devices and get outdoors.
Studying animal science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Joseph Grennon hopes to eventually study orangutans and help others learn what needs to be done to protect them. He plans to attend veterinary school after graduation.
After serving in the Army and working as part of the labor force, Shane Kinsey returned to school to study wildlife management at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Among his volunteer efforts, Kinsey assisted the elk herd at Great Smoky Mountains National Park while working as a wildlife technician.
An undergraduate at Oregon State University, Jessica Stewart currently leads a team of volunteers in caring for sick and injured wildlife. She has a passion for birds of prey referring to her on-going studies and work as a "lifelong dream."
The WLA scholarship fund grew in 2006 thanks to a memorial given by the family of Gerald L. Turpin. It received a further boost in 2013 from the Torstenson Family Endowment. TFE funding is only used to further RMEF's core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.