TWS Sparks!

A fast-paced session featuring 5-minute presentations from multiple speakers in a unique way of connecting ideas, engaging the audience and provoking elicit discussion about anything and everything we’re passionate about in the wildlife profession.


“Is human/lion conflict study interdisciplinary? If it’s not it’s a problem,” said Bob Montgomery of the Recap laboratory in his rapid-fire Spark talk on the topic Thursday afternoon.

Montgomery looked at the issue in five dimensions: carnivores, livestock, wild prey, environment and human. He found no research that included all five dimensions.

“Basically what this amounts to is, we’re not reaching across the aisle,” he said.

Gary White talks about the joys of being a wildlife biometrician at the Sparks session.

Sure, you have to love wildlife. But you have to learn math, and know some programming, too.

“If you program it wrong its gonna come out wrong. You’ve got to program it right to come up with the right answers.”

White talked about his work with spotted owls, sea lions and other species, work he’s done in Namibia and workshops in Australia and the United Arab Emirates.

“It’s been a very rewarding career and I’ve had the fortune of working with some very great colleagues,” he said. “If you’ve got the ability to do this kind of stuff and you enjoy it, do it.”

Think de-extinction is something looming in the future? Kristin Brzeski, assistant professor at Michigan Tech, disagrees.

“The future is now,” she said in her Spark talk, and it can be put in place with endangered red wolves.

The gene-editing technology behind bringing back species like wooly mammoths and passenger pigeons can also be used to bring back “ghost alleles,” she said. Genetic material lost to history can be regained and returned to help species that are still hanging on, like the red wolf.

Brzeski said she has found some of these ghost alleles in canid populations in Louisiana and Texas, and they could be edited to improve the genetics of red wolves.

But red wolves are controversial, she said, and so is genetic engineering.

“A Frankenstein wolf on the landscape in Louisiana and Texas is probably not a huge public media boost, but the technology is there,” she said.