Our Alums are Ready to Work
Employers know: Paul Smith's students come out of college ready to do good work. That's why nine out of 10 grads either get work in their chosen field or go to grad school within six months of graduation.
Professor Jorie Favreau doesn’t have trouble convincing her students to crawl out of bed for the early morning labs in her Techniques in Wildlife Management class. The snooze button has no power against the rocket net.
“Explosives at eight in the morning. There’s no better way to start the day than that,” laughs Favreau, who invited a group of wildlife technicians from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to train the students in the toys — er, tools — of the trade.
Favreau’s class is all about giving Paul Smith’s students hands-on experience with professional techniques for trapping, tagging and identifying wild animals. The rocket net, despite its explosive name, is a proven tool for safely trapping a large number of wild turkeys, ducks or geese in one shot.
The wildlife technicians — three out of four were Paul Smith’s graduates — showed the students how to set up the netting and bait the field to attract the right kind of bird, which in this case was turkeys.
“When enough turkeys arrive, you hit the launch button from your blind,” Favreau explains, “which sends three small rockets over the birds, dragging the net behind them. You can catch 100 turkeys if you want. Watching a video, it looks like there’s nothing to it, but the DEC folks show us how to use it safely and effectively. Where else but Paul Smith’s can students get that kind of experience?”
Tyson Morrill agrees. Morrill graduated from Paul Smith’s in spring 2013 with a degree in fisheries and wildlife sciences, and immediately landed a job in Alaska working as a wildlife technician for the USDA Wildlife Services. Morrill remembers a particular technique that he learned in Favreau’s class called electrofishing, which uses an electric charge to stun and temporarily immobilize fish so they can be counted, measured and tagged.
“I got my first two summer jobs with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department because they saw that I had electrofishing experience,” Morrill says. “I was able to sample numerous streams looking for brook trout with electrofishing. In fact, my partner was another Paul Smith’s student.”
Favreau talks proudly about the experiential nature of a Paul Smith’s education, but also the close faculty-student interactions that can only exist at a smaller school.
“I know what each of my students want to do when they graduate. I can say, ‘I just got a job announcement that’s perfect for you,’” Favreau says. “We work with them on their resumes and write letters of recommendation that say, ‘In my lab, I saw this student handle small mammals.’ Not just that they had the chance to do it, but I can tell a future employer, ‘I’ve seen them. I know they can do it safely. I know they can do it ethically. They’ve shown great responsibility in the field. They can do that job that you just advertised.’ That gets our students the jobs, because we know them so well.”
Those jobs include posts with managing wildlife for state and federal wildlife agencies, researching wildlife in conjunction with state universities, and, enforcing wildlife laws as conservation officers. Favreau’s students also frequently go on to graduate school.
In Alaska, Morrill’s USDA gig is to protect moose and bald eagles from wandering onto the airstrips at the Anchorage International Airport, and to manage the waterfowl that inhabit Lake Hood, the second-largest private floatplane base in the world.
“A lot of what I do is working to educate the public,” Morrill explains. “If cars are pulled off to the side of the road to take a picture of the moose, I can explain why the animals are there this time of year, or I can explain the migratory patterns of local waterfowl to a seaplane pilot.”
Public education is just another skill that Morrill says he learned through experiences at Paul Smith’s. He remembers a mock debate where he had to prepare to argue both sides of a dispute between pro-trappers and anti-trappers. It helped him learn how to make a point through education, not argument.
When the USDA job ends in November, Morrill hopes to land an even “wilder” Alaskan posting located seven hours by snowmobile from the nearest road.
“I’d be living in a cabin with one other person from January to April,” Morrill says, “trapping, radio-collaring and tracking coyotes and seeing how they interact with wolves in that area. I think I have a real good shot at it.”
Back on Paul Smith’s campus, Favreau is leading the class in a lab about trapping and tagging small mammals like voles and mice. She has them bait Sherman traps with oatmeal and peanut butter to live trap the small mammals, place ear tags on the critters, release them unharmed with their new ear tags, and ultimately calculate the size of their population.
Before starting the exercise, one of her students gets a text. Incredibly, it’s Morrill from Alaska.
“Tell Jorie “thanks,”” the student reads. “I got this job because of what you are about to do right now.”