HARRISBURG, PA — The Washington, D.C.-based Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies has recognized the Pennsylvania Game Commission for excellence, presenting the agency with two national awards Monday at its annual meeting, which is being held virtually this year.
The Game Commission and its grouse biologist Lisa Williams were named recipients of the 2020 Ernest Thompson Seton Award, and the Game Commission’s new Wildlife on WiFi program was named winner of the 2020 Stephen Kellert Award.
“Extremely dedicated to the roles they play in wildlife conservation, the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s staff, on a daily basis, exhibits excellence in innovation, work ethic and efficiency,” said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “The results are apparent and easy to appreciate, and it’s not surprising some of our hard-working employees have been recognized on a national level with prestigious awards from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.”
The Ernest Thompson Seton Award is presented to the state, provincial or federal agency that best has promoted a public awareness of the need to support the science and practice of wildlife management. A companion award also is presented to the individual deemed by the agency as the one most responsible for its successful and award-winning program.
Williams was the first researcher to identify the connection between sharply declining ruffed grouse populations and West Nile virus. Previously, habitat loss was considered the primary driver of grouse population declines. Williams’ breakthrough discovery has led the way for work to address the problem head-on.
Such work includes research to identify the mosquito species responsible for grouse losses; pinpointing where that mosquito most often is present, allowing habitat projects that benefit grouse to be directed to areas where populations will rebound quickest; and building support for adjustments to grouse hunting season lengths that better guide grouse through tough times.
The Stephen Kellert Award recognizes a distinguished individual or group effort for outstanding service in advancing connections between humans and the natural world to all peoples in a diverse and inclusive manner.
Launched during a period when school buildings statewide were closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wildlife on WiFi (WoW) serves to connect Pennsylvanians to their state’s wildlife from anywhere.
WoW provides innovative remote-learning opportunities, virtual lessons and online educational resources about wildlife and its conservation. Since its April 2020 launch, Wildlife on WiFi has registered approximately 40,000 user engagements, including downloads of WoW lessons and activities, views of videos and storytime readings, social media wildlife game engagements, live virtual lessons with Pennsylvania students and “From the Field” webinars that connect registrants directly to Game Commission staff experts.
Wildlife on WiFi resources may be accessed by visiting www.pgc.pa.gov and selecting “Virtual Learning” from the “Education” menu, or teachers, educators, parents, and other Commonwealth residents may contact the WoW team directly at [email protected] to schedule a virtual lesson and learn more about the offerings.
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