Outdoorsman pursues wildlife career

photo by Sully Minnick

From the time he was young, senior Derrick Via has enjoyed nature through hunting and fishing.

Now, Via has chosen a major that will allow him to both work directly with nature and ensure that it will continue to be accessible in the future: Wildlife Technology.

Via will attend Penn State Dubois for Wildlife Technology. This major is centered around natural resource management, wildlife biology, range management and more.

“When I went to Wildlife Leadership Academy, we had a visit to [Penn State Dubois] and we met with the professors, we talked about the program, what it entails,” said Via. “I got a whole outline of all the courses and everything and I decided that’s where I want to go.”

Wildlife Technology majors can pursue careers including park ranger, game refuge manager and game commissioners. Many graduates start with hands-on jobs acting directly on the environment before moving up to more management-style positions.

“You kind of have to start at the bottom and work your way up, until you get to know a lot of people,” said Via. “I’m probably going to start out with a lot of hands-on work for a few years; going out there with the shovel, digging holes, running a skid loader, and clearing brush.

“I’m hoping to get to a point where, depending on where I work, I might get to state game commission and work at one of the higher levels.”

Professionals with this major often need knowledge about how to maintain healthy environments to sustain populations within a habitat.

“I grew up with a lot of respect for wildlife and [hunting] exposed me to realizing that, especially on the game lands, there are so many people who come out and do this for their enjoyment and recreation,” said Via. “We need to keep it preserved for younger generations that can carry on the tradition, carry on the hobby.”

Via participated in the weeklong Wildlife Leadership Academy, where he was exposed to the field. There, he spoke to professionals involved in Wildlife Technology, like game commissioners, and could ask them questions about their experiences.

“You get to talk with them one on one, and they’re totally fine with you,” said Via. “You don’t feel intimidated by their stature - when you go to a general showing for the public, it feels awkward to ask questions. They’ll sit and talk to you while you’re eating lunch.”

Prior to attending the Wildlife Leadership Academy, Via was uncertain what field he wanted to enter and was considering mechanical, electrical and outdoor-based fields. The experience was a major factor in his choice to major in Wildlife Technology.

“I got to meet a whole bunch of game commission professionals and it really made me realize, that’s my passion,” said Via. “That’s what I want to be doing.”

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