Students for Students—Wildlife and Fisheries Society Showcase Internships

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The Wildlife and Fisheries Society (WFS) is one of thirty-plus student organizations in the Herbert College of Agriculture, allowing students in the School of Natural Resources to complement their education with hands-on learning, volunteer work, networking, and so much more.

The organization hosts regular meetings with its members, often involving team-building, guest speakers, presentations, etc. One of the meetings this past semester allowed members a unique opportunity to showcase their internships and demonstrate what’s possible with a career in wildlife and fisheries.

For example, Marguerite Oakey, a junior wildlife and fisheries management major, presented her experience as a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Wildlife Intern on the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area (Region 3). While she expressed having little to no experience in wildlife management previous to her internship, her role provided opportunities in heavy machine operating, trapping, and conducting surveys.

“People always say internships tell you what you do and don’t like.” Oakey continued, “I realized I do like managing land for game species (game management). I like trapping and operating machinery especially when you see the benefits weeks or months later.” Admittedly, she wasn’t as excited about biodiversity and fish surveys.

Eric Shiflett, a senior wildlife and fisheries management major, presented on working with UT on grassland bird research—an experience “full of challenges and learning opportunities.”

“I would say one of the main experiences was learning how to operate entirely on my own for the majority of the summer. Conducting radio telemetry and vegetation sampling with no support was challenging, but rewarding. Additionally, getting to work with a species that I had never even seen prior to the summer was very exciting.” Specifically, the grasshopper sparrow, a species known and seen by very few.

One member in attendance, who didn’t take a summer internship due to studying abroad in Belize and summer coursework, was WFS President and senior wildlife and fisheries management major Ashlyn Smith.

She expressed, “I enjoy watching these internship presentations because it makes me proud of these members that I have been able to watch grow over the years. I feel fortunate to have so many friends from being a part of this organization, and it tickles me to see them succeed.”

Another member who attended the presentations was Matt Mercel, a junior wildlife and fisheries management major. His background is unique: after leaving Florida State University in 2009, he spent more than ten years in retail and decided to go back to school in his early 30s.

Mercel’s passion for fishing and the outdoors led him to the Herbert College of Agriculture and the School of Natural Resources. Along with his classes and professors, Mercel has especially enjoyed his time in WFS. “Everyone has been so welcoming and friendly. They have been helpful with advice, helping to point me in the direction which will get me where I want to eventually be.”

When asked about his biggest takeaway from the internship presentations, he mentioned the importance of getting hands-on experience in your field of interest. He added, “Another big takeaway was that internships can be extremely beneficial to highlight areas that you are not interested in, or aspects of the job that you maybe would want to avoid, as much as they can open your eyes to something new and interesting.”

Overall, the meeting provided valuable opportunities to all parties involved, with students practicing their presentation skills and attendees gaining insight toward internship and career possibilities. It was the perfect example of students supporting students academically and professionally.

For questions about WFS, reach out to President Ashlyn Smith at You can also stay up to date on the society’s activities via Instagram and Facebook.