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Dr. William Porter

Boone and Crockett Professor of Wildlife Conservation at the Michigan State University

Dr. William Porter is the first Boone and Crockett Chair of Wildlife Conservation in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University. His research explores population dynamics and the behavior of wildlife in relation to habitat, emphasizing the application of ecological knowledge to management and conservation policy. Most of the work he and his students do focuses on larger vertebrates, including moose, wild turkeys, elk and white-tailed deer, but recent studies examine songbird communities. Current studies address wildlife management problems that have larger implications for wildlife policy: how can we more effectively manage deer in suburban environments through the creative use of microbiological and genetic techniques? How can we employ satellite technology and weather forecasting models to better manage hunter harvest of wild turkeys? How can we reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions through the use of spatial statistics to identify hotspots? How is the biological integrity of natural ecosystems being affected by climate change? How will increased production of wood-based biofuel affect wildlife in the northern forests?

Dr. Porter’s teaching includes courses at the undergraduate and graduate level in wildlife management and policy, exposing students to the interplay of ecology, analytical tools and politics in decision making. Current courses explore contemporary issues in wildlife conservation such as wolf management in the northern Great Lakes and northern Rockies. A graduate course offered on partnership with the College of Business introduces students to the basic elements of transformational leadership.

Dr. Porter leads the Quantitative Wildlife Laboratory at Michigan State University. This laboratory is both a physical space and a programmatic focal point. Its mission is to enhance wildlife conservation policy through the application of ecological science built on advanced math, statistics and computer modeling. We draw together teams of talented graduate students, post-doctoral scholars and faculty to address the important issues in wildlife conservation. We lead collaborative efforts across Michigan State University and build partnerships with other institutions. Michigan State University is a national leader in the development of quantitative tools for application to natural resource issues. .

Personal Biography:

When I was 16 years old, I saw a lecture on the new technology of radio-telemetry for studying the movement behavior of red foxes. I was fascinated. I decided that day that I was going to pursue a career in wildlife ecology.

I attended the University of Northern Iowa, majoring in biology and education. From there I went to the University of Minnesota where I could be part of a group that was pioneering the development of radio-telemetry. By chance, I got involved with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) at a pivotal moment in their wildlife conservation programs. I spent the next five years conducting research that would eventually lead to the restoration wild turkeys throughout the Upper Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes.

Upon finishing my PhD, I took a position on the faculty at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science in Syracuse. I continued my research on wild turkeys and added studies on white-tailed deer, elk and moose. Teaching activities included undergraduate courses in wildlife management, habitat evaluation and winter ecology of mammals. Both my research and teaching programs were shaped by experiences with the Minnesota DNR. My training of students emphasized the application of ecological sciences to the contemporary management issues facing wildlife agencies.

I was drawn to leadership and early in my career I was appointed as Director of the Adirondack Ecological Center, the State University of New York’s largest field station. There we dramatically expanded opportunities for students to get field experience in a wilderness environment. I later initiated an effort to resurrect the Roosevelt Wild Life Station. The Roosevelt family vested the College of Environmental Science and Forestry as the academic home of Theodore Roosevelt’s efforts to make conservation a cornerstone of American society. These experiences with broader conservation issues drew me to the challenges of sustainable development and wildlife conservation on large, regional scales. Together with colleagues, I wrote a book that sought to capture the essence of America’s ongoing great experiment with conservation.

In 2010, I retired from the College of Environmental Science and Forestry to take the newly created Boone and Crockett Chair of Wildlife Conservation at Michigan State University. Here, the Midwestern landscapes and my close work with the Michigan DNR makes me feel like I’ve come home. Opportunities to engage the membership of the Boone and Crockett Club brings reality to my dream of leaving a legacy of wildlife conservation. My decision at age 16 was exactly right. I have looked forward to every Monday morning for more than 40 years.

Dr. William Porter, Boone and Crockett Chair of Wildlife Conservation at Michigan State University, can be contacted via email or telephone (517)-432-0874.


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