WEC Alumni in the World - Hunter Slade
Hunter Slade (WEC B.S. 2014) came to the Wildlife Ecology and Conservation major with the vision of becoming a manager of a hunting program for a privately owned ranch. But as he progressed in the program, Hunter's range of career options began to widen. As he grew as a scientist within the WEC program, he also grew as a person. He is now the wildlife biologist for Lykes Ranch, which is located on 337,000 acres in Glades and Highlands counties in south-central Florida.
Hunter is glad to have this position so soon after graduating. He has a wide variety of responsibilities. "Most of my time is spent implementing the ranch's wildlife management program, specifically focusing on the sustainable harvest of white-tailed deer," says Hunter. "This includes designing and conducting surveys to monitor populations, as well as analyzing and reporting this data. Nearly 300,000 acres of the ranch is broken up into more than 40 hunting leases, so another major part of my job is educating and assisting lease tenants with data collection from harvested game, maintaining and analyzing this data, setting harvest restrictions and requirements for each individual lease, and developing an educational program for lease tenants regarding quality deer management and management practices to improve habitat quality for wildlife." "I am also responsible for coordinating and conducting habitat management practices tailored to species such as northern bobwhite quail, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, red-cockaded woodpeckers, and gopher tortoises. These practices include, but are not limited to, prescribed burning, mowing, roller-chopping, planting food plots, and conducting surveys to monitor the response of the habitat to these management practices." Hunter describes the WEC major as a "tight-knit community" that helped him come out of his shell while also molding him into the scientist he is today. "There aren't a lot of majors where you know most of the people in your classes. It was also nice to be able to have good relationships to many of your professors. It was easy to talk to them, and many of them even made appearances outside of a classroom setting such as at football games and wildlife society events."
What wisdom would Hunter like to pass down to current WEC students? "I would stress how important it is to get outside of the classroom setting and gain experience. There are so many volunteering opportunities that come through the department. The more experience you gain, the better. I didn't volunteer at all for the first two years that I was at UF. Looking back now, I really regret it because it really is a lot of fun, and it makes you a more well-rounded person in the field. Also, get involved in the Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society, go to Conclave, help out with Beast Feast, just do as much as you can outside of doing homework and going to class (as long as you can stay caught up on that too). All of these things let you meet people and gain contacts that can potentially help you down the road, and again, they are a lot of fun."