Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Game Commission Biologists Receive Recognition From The Wildlife Society

Game Commission biologists Mary Jo Casalena, Chris Rosenberry, Greg Turner and Lisa Williams were recognized Monday for their outstanding contributions to wildlife management by the Northeast Section of The Wildlife Society.
Chris Rosenberry, a deer biologist who heads the Game Commission’s deer and elk section, accepted an award on behalf of the agency’s deer program, which recently was recognized as having the top species-management plan in North America.
And the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation presented Game Commission turkey biologist Mary Jo Casalena with the 2018 Dr. David D. Wanless Memorial Award in recognition of her outstanding work for the state’s wild turkeys.
The presentations were part of Monday’s Board of Game Commissioners meeting.
Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said he’s proud of these biologists, and the exemplary work for Pennsylvania wildlife that’s carried out daily by dedicated employees throughout the agency.
“It’s our quality employees that make the Pennsylvania Game Commission, in my opinion, the hands-down, best wildlife agency in the country,” Burhans said.
The certificates of recognition presented to Williams and Turner honor individuals who have made noteworthy contributions to knowledge about wildlife or wildlife management, furthered public understanding, or who have made available increased wildlife habitat.
Through her research, Williams identified the relationship between West Nile virus outbreaks and sharp declines in ruffed-grouse populations.
Williams’ public-outreach work to gain support from grouse hunters for the difficult decision to close the late grouse-season segment due to grouse declines also is commendable, said Emily Just, past president for the Northeast Section of The Wildlife Society.
“Lisa has a wonderful rapport with Pennsylvania’s grouse hunters, and grouse are benefiting from her work to better understand the problem, formulate potential solutions and keep the public informed on all that’s going on,” Just said.
Just thanked Turner for his tremendous contributions to increase the overall understanding of white-nose syndrome, a disease that has caused dramatic declines in cave-bat populations.
Turner’s fieldwork comes at great physical risks, but it has resulted in more than 20 publications about the disease, achieved through collaborations with academic researchers, government agencies and other organizations.
“Better understanding white-nose syndrome is the baseline for finding ways to minimize its impacts, and we wouldn’t know nearly as much as we do about the disease if not for Greg,” Just said.
The award presented to Casalena, a biologist for 25 years who’s worked since 1999 as the Game Commission’s wild turkey biologist, recognizes her work as a whole, from field research to outreach to the technical assistance she provides to the organization and its chapters.
“The regularity with which Mary Jo is consulted by PANWTF and biologists in other jurisdictions reflects both the esteem in which she is held, and her willingness to share her expertise for broader application,” said Heath Nace, a PANWTF board member who presented the award to Casalena. “Her enthusiasm and effectiveness in coordinating with the PANWTF have tremendous positive impact in maintaining cooperation and support for scientific wild turkey management in Pennsylvania.”
Meanwhile, Simon Fraser University in a recently published study that reviewed 667 species management plans among 62 wildlife management agencies in the United States and Canada, and the Game Commission’s deer-management plan was among four that tied for No. 1 in North America.
That distinction was recognized by the Board of Game Commissioners.
“There is no entity more committed to deer-management than the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and a lot of hard work goes into each and every decision we make on deer,” said Board of Game Commissioners President Timothy Layton. “To see the agency’s deer-management plan receive such high accolades shows we have sound guidance on our side in making those decisions.
“And to see so many of our employees recognized for their outstanding work, shows the level of professional excellence our workforce expects from itself,” Layton said.
For more information on wildlife programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the Game Commission website.

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