When Serra Hoagland joined The Wildlife Society in 2010, she wanted to find her own niche in the society — a place, she said, where she “could make an impact and benefit other members.”
She found it in the Native People’s Wildlife Management Working Group. Soon, she started coordinating its Native Student Professional Development program, which enables Native American, First Nations, Native Hawaiian and Alaskan Native students to attend the annual conference through travel grants and to network with wildlife professionals.
At the last annual conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the 2017 Diversity Award went to Hoagland, a biologist at the U.S. Forest Service in Montana, for her work forging a path for other Native Americans to engage in the wildlife profession.
“We have to promote Native Americans in natural resource management at the junior high, high school, college and post-graduate levels and foster leadership development for that community,” said Hoagland, chair of TWS’ Native People’s Wildlife Management Working Group. “Tribes hold and manage unique landscapes and important resources, and ideally we’d like to have Indian people making the decisions as land managers.”
The Wildlife Society’s Diversity Award commends wildlife professionals or entities for exceptional contributions to the task of boosting ethnic and gender diversity in the wildlife field through the workforce, education or organizational membership.
The Diversity Award “symbolizes we’re on the right path,” Hoagland said, “justifying all the initiatives we’ve been trying as a working group and as an individual helping coordinate the professional development program. Getting the recognition makes you feel like we all agree this is a good thing.”
The 2017 Annual Conference was “powerful,” Hoagland said, and “monumental because this was the first year we had the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society in participation at the event.” It left her “with so much revived energy, encouragement and excitement for all the good things we do for wildlife,” she said.
Realizing she could study the animals she loved in their natural environment by becoming a wildlife biologist, Hoagland — who’s Laguna Pueblo — majored in ecology and systematic biology at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and graduated in 2008. Three years later, she obtained a master’s degree in environmental science and management from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and in 2016, she earned a PhD in forestry at Northern Arizona University.
For the past year, Hoagland has been a liaison officer with the USFS. In this position, she conducts research with the Mescalero Apache tribe, provides professional mentorship to indigenous students at Salish Kootenai College and collaborates with the Intertribal Timber Council and American Indian Science and Engineering Society. Hoagland recently served as co-guest editor for a special issue of the Journal of Forestry about tribal natural resource management, a publication she sees as one of the greatest achievements in her career so far.
She plans to keep supporting the Native People’s Wildlife Management Working Group while TWS continues to cultivate the wildlife profession’s cultural and gender diversity as represented by the Diversity Award.
“I have admired people who received that award in the past,” Hoagland said. “It makes a good statement for TWS to say diversity is one thing they care about and recognize people for it.”