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Purdue Partners with CLfT for Online Conservation Offerings

The Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow program conducted by the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation has a longstanding relationship with Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources, including a direct tie through adjunct professor and three-time alumnus Dr. Zachary Lowe, who serves as program director. Many FNR professors and students have collaborated with and participated in the CLfT program since 2008, when Lowe, then a Purdue Extension habitat specialist, and Dr. Andrew DeWoody, professor of genetics, went through training to become instructors for CLfT.

Now the groups have entered into a formal partnership to expand their collective reach to the online realm through offerings with Purdue Online.

The first of these offerings is a “Hunting for Conservation” course led by Lowe, along with a four-member CLfT delivery team. Wildlife extension specialist Jarred Brooke and DeWoody are included among the 15-20 contributing CLfT instructors from across the country. The course is derived from CLfT’s award-winning in-person workshops.

“The majority of CLfT is done in face to face classroom delivery with some field exercises,” Lowe said. “We knew it was not possible to transfer the entirety of CLfT to distance learning. Hunting for Conservation is a different designation including portions of the material that transfer well to the online format. Jarred Brooke will be incorporating Hunting for Conservation into his FNR course – FNR 46500 - History and Role of Hunting in North American Wildlife Conservation – a required course for wildlife students, and doing things out in the field with the Purdue students in addition to them using the online materials. The Hunting for Conservation curriculum was developed to be more like a virtual textbook that universities can build a meaningful course experience from.”

Brooke says that the CLfT partnership will only enhance his course this fall by offering instruction from additional sources.

"Utilizing the content from this new online course in the Purdue FNR class is a no-brainer,” Brooke said. “The class already incorporates a lot of the materials from the CLfT program. But, now students have the added benefit of being introduced to a wide breadth of perspectives from various wildlife professionals across the country, which wouldn’t have happened otherwise. On top of that, the online content will serve as a foundation and launching point for expanded in-class discussions, activities, and field exercises."

The partnership simply makes sense as both organizations are working toward the same goals of conservation, education and providing for the sustainable future use of natural resources.

“From the perspective of a faculty member who has been involved with CLfT for over a decade, I think that Purdue’s expertise in online content delivery makes this partnership a strong one for several reasons,” DeWoody said. “CLfT has historically been forced to limit the number of participants due to logistical and economic issues and online offerings should make the course content more readily available. This initiative is particularly timely given COVID-19 concerns association with bringing together students and instructors from several states for an in-person workshop.”

CLfT is a conservation education and professional development program that deals with the sustainable uses of wildlife in North America, and has a specific focus on regulated hunting. CLfT, which got its start at the University of Wisconsin, now has a vast network of over 150 instructors and partners with over 31 state and federal agencies to provide development training to their staff and partners.

Purdue FNR is committed to preparing the next generation of professionals, discovering new knowledge and engaging key stakeholders in the science, management and sustainable use of natural resources.

“The contract is written with Purdue online, but the genesis for it was that we knew that FNR needed to convert a portion of its material to an online format as a great many universities do right now,” Lowe explains. “So that is when I stepped in and said ‘we are about to venture down this body of work anyway and we are going to go to a Tier 1 institution to help deliver the curriculum digitally, why not Purdue?’ That is really where the conversation started and the wildlife faculty was very supportive of that idea. This led to discussions with (Purdue AgOnline program manager) Jeff Nagle, the initial lead on that over in the School of Ag. Jeff is phenomenally good and was really thoughtful about how we could meld what we do nationally with CLfT and specifically serve FNR’s course requirements, all while leveraging Purdue’s talents in distance learning and global network.”

Another piece to the new partnership is that the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies will provide funding to help support the development of the online materials and the larger national delivery of them to many other universities.

AFWA’s mission is to conserve and prevent the exploitation of America’s fish and wildlife on both public and private lands, making a perfect pairing with the Hunting for Conservation course and other offerings by Purdue FNR, Purdue Online and CLfT.

The AFWA’s involvement with this partnership, along with other longtime CLfT program partners like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, will help ensure this initial online course and others to come are accessible to college students nationally and will allow all of these organizations to continue to serve their missions of wildlife conservation.

The partnership with Purdue FNR and Purdue Online brings things full circle for Lowe.

“Through this partnership, we are able to take the best of what we have to offer, the best of those instructors with our national and state partners and offer it back to Purdue and a great many other institutions,” Lowe said. “Every time I teach at Purdue, it is always incredibly rewarding to come back and bear witness to the pulse of the student population, their interests and get a sense of where the profession is heading.

“I think back to my days as a student and how valuable drawing upon this type of experience would have been to me. The concepts covered in the Hunting for Conservation course are at the very core of how we have the amazing ability to manage wildlife the way we do in North America and I learned that many years ago through Purdue. This course isn’t just a reaction to COVID-19 and the need to go online, this course is really a progressive way to address distance learning on a topic that is as old as the profession itself.”

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