About Wildlife, Fisheries & Aquaculture

The Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture is comprehensive and dynamic, meeting the changing needs in natural resources teaching, research, outreach, and extension throughout Mississippi and beyond. The department was first established as the Department of Wildlife Management in 1968 and was renamed the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in 1970. In 2009, the department added aquaculture to the name to due to research, extension and teaching needs for development and support of this important industry in Mississippi.

Faculty and staff of the Department train future fish and wildlife professionals, conduct regional, national and international research, and provide education for citizens and landowners concerning fish, wildlife, and ecosystem management. Our faculty and staff exhibit a diverse array of skills and expertise and include wildlife, fisheries, and aquaculture scientists; extension specialists in fisheries, aquatic biology, aquaculture, conservation education, and habitat management on private lands; and federal wildlife and fisheries scientists in the USGS Fish and Wildlife Cooperative Research Unit.

The Department also has cooperative associations with USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, and the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition, the department has specialized research laboratories and centers that focus on agricultural ecology, carnivore ecology, human-wildlife conflicts, human dimensions, and deer ecology and management.

Undergraduate Studies

The Department offers a major in Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture designed to provide students with curricula that has foundation in biology, ecology, natural resources management, social sciences, mathematics, and other educational subjects needed by natural resource professionals. Over 40 undergraduate courses in ecology, organismal biology and taxonomy, habitat evaluation and management, wildlife and fisheries management, human dimensions, policy, biometrics, landscape ecology, and special topics are offered by over 20 departmental faculty and instructors.

Students may select one of six academic concentrations each of which requires completion of a specified major core curriculum. These concentrations include Conservation Law Enforcement, Human-Wildlife Conflicts, Wildlife Agriculture Conservation, Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture Science, Wildlife Veterinary 3+1 Program and Wildlife Veterinary 4-year Program. Curriculum in each of the academic concentrations will prepare students for employment in natural resource professions within private, federal, and state wildlife, fisheries, or aquaculture sectors. Successful completion of curriculum ensures that graduates are eligible for employment or post-graduate studies upon graduation.

Coursework in all concentrations enables students to fulfill requirements necessary to become certified by The Wildlife Society as an Associate Wildlife Biologist. The Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture concentration exceeds requirements for certification as Associate Fisheries Scientist by the American Fisheries Society.

While pursuing degree programs, students may gain practical experience by working in laboratories, internships, and directed individual studies programs offered through the University, college, and department. Student internships are often available with state and federal agencies and industry. Students may network and meet other students and professional biologists through participation in student organizations, such as Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society, MSU Chapter of American Fisheries Society, and Quality Deer Management Student Association.

Graduate Studies

Graduate studies in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture may entail a diversity of research projects and topics in wildlife, fisheries, and aquaculture science, ecosystem management and restoration, human-dimensions, policy, and economic studies. At least 45 graduate level courses are offered within the department. Also, student organizations, such as Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society and the WFA Graduate Student Association, provide networking and service opportunities for enrolled graduate students.

Graduate student enrollment in the department typically exceeds 30 MS and 20 PhD students. Graduate students are funded primarily through assistantships recruited through extramurally funded projects sponsored by federal and state agencies, industry, non-governmental organizations, institutions, foundations, and international interests. Limited teaching assistantships may be available annually. Acceptance to graduate program in Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture is often linked to a funded project and acquisition of stipends associated with these projects is competitive. For more specific information on research opportunities, perspective graduate students should contact professors in the department who are conducting research compatible with their interests.

Departmental research activity addresses information needs and enhanced scientific knowledge in wildlife, fisheries, and aquaculture at state, regional, national, and international levels. Research faculty and staff work with graduate students to develop and conduct a diversity of research projects that include studies of game and nongame species, ecology, wildlife diseases, endangered species conservation, ecological restoration, invasive species management; habitat reclamation, restoration, and management; conservation education, human dimensions, geospatial technologies in wildlife and fisheries sciences, landscape ecology, and wildlife and fish recreation.

As 2015, 80 research projects were ongoing in the department. Funding sources of these projects included state agencies, such as Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, and federal agencies, such as USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, USDA Forest Service, US Environmental Protection Agency, USDI National Park Service, and USDI Fish and Wildlife Service; industry, and nongovernmental organizations, such as Ducks Unlimited. National level research may focus on fish and wildlife of other regions of the United States, such as Puerto Rico or Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

International studies are also ongoing in Africa, the Virgin Islands, and Costa Rica. Specialized laboratories and centers within the department focus on specific research emphases, such as deer ecology and management, carnivore ecology, agricultural ecology, wildlife-human conflicts, warm water aquaculture, coastal research, and landscape conservation initiatives.

Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture (WFA) Extension provides links between information developed by sound research and citizens who use that information in wise management, utilization, and conservation of wildlife and fisheries resources. WFA Extension is comprised of 14 individuals who provide a diverse range of information to landowners, farmers, youth and the general public on topics ranging from conservation to land and water management for fish and wildlife habitats. In 2014, professionals in WFA extension produced 120 publications and curricula, developed and maintained 8 websites that were accessed in over 210,000 visits, and conducted over 40 workshops, educational field days, and conservation education programs that reached over 5,000 students, teachers, landowners, and citizens.

Wildlife Extension programs provide technical, habitat management information for sustainable wildlife populations in Mississippi. In 2014, these professionals offered 14 workshops and field days, conducted 28 educational and technical presentations, and published 30 wildlife management publications.

Fisheries Extension programs provide information to landowners for pond construction and management as well as recreational sports fisheries on their lands. To promote effective management of fisheries, lakes, and ponds, WFA extension professionals developed 8 publications, conducted 23 technical and educational presentations, and provided service to 350 Mississippi citizens in 2014.

The Natural Resource Enterprises program assists landowners, farmers, ranchers and forest owners nationwide with income diversification and conservation opportunities through development of fee-access outdoor recreation and other natural resource enterprises on private lands. NRE programs reached over 500 participants and landowners in 10 workshops conducted 6 U.S. states influencing conservation practices on over 140,000 acres and stimulating new revenues of $ 2.5 M in NRE businesses on private lands.

Youth Conservation Education provides training for youth and youth-serving adults in natural sciences with the goal of growing knowledgeable environmental stewards and leaders. Through the Youth Environmental Science program, 3,000 third, fourth and fifth graders and 80 teachers were trained in wildlife ecology and natural history in the Starkville, MS Public School System.

The Research and Education to Advance Conservation and Habitat or REACH program develops protocols to measure impacts to environmental and water resources from conservation tools implemented on cooperative farms in Mississippi. The program designs and implements methods to reduce nutrient and sediment run-off from agricultural fields, resulting in improved water quality and quantity on working farms. In 2014, 126,000 acres on 41 farms in Mississippi were enrolled in the REACH program.

Extension Aquaculture Program located in Stoneville, MS conducts workshops, field days, and in-service training for aquaculture producers and private landowners. Additionally, workshops and training sessions are offered on fish diseases, pond management, and other aquaculture topics.

The Deer Ecology and Management Laboratory is one of the premier deer ecology and management research units in the United States, with active research being conducted since the 1970s. This long tradition of excellence has greatly impacted the wildlife profession by producing 24 agency biologists, 5 chiefs/directors in wildlife agencies, 4 private enterprise biologists, and 6 faculty members at universities. At least 6 faculty members are part of this laboratory’s research initiatives which include evaluation of factors related to deer body size and development, disturbance ecology and deer habitat management, habitat use and deer movement ecology, reproductive ecology and behavior, population ecology, and harvest and population data collection approaches.

The Carnivore Ecology Laboratory (CEL) seeks to improve understanding of all aspects of carnivore ecology and management through theoretical and applied research. This laboratory’s primary foci emphasize contemporary challenges facing resource management agencies, private landowners, and society at large. The CEL’s mission is to conduct scientifically-based research that provides insights into carnivore ecology, conservation, and management to help natural resource agencies, organizations, and the public understand the biology and ecological roles of carnivores to ensure their long-term conservation; integrate carnivore ecology information into decision-making processes, effectively manage carnivore-human interactions to facilitate coexistence, and train future professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to be effective managers, conservationists, and scientists. The CEL is a team of faculty, staff, and students with interests and expertise in carnivore ecology, predator-prey relationships, and carnivore-human conflict. The research program is supported through contracts and grants of state and federal agencies and non-governmental and private organizations.

The Agricultural Ecology Laboratory (AEL) seeks to increase wildlife benefits and ecosystems services of productive agricultural landscapes in ways that are economically beneficial to landowners. In fulfillment with the mission of a Land Grant university, this laboratory’s work focuses on contemporary problems facing both agricultural producers and wildlife conservationists. Research and educational activities facilitate cooperation among private landowners, government agencies and non-profit organizations to benefit society at large. A primary mission of this laboratory is to seek funding for and conduct applied research to improve agricultural and land management decisions, identify and understand ecological impacts of US Farm Policy and Conservation Programs, and support science-based policy development at state and federal levels.

The Human Dimensions and Conservation Law Enforcement Laboratory (HDCLEL) is a team of faculty, research scientists, and research assistants with interests and expertise in social, economic, and law enforcement aspects of natural resources management with an emphasis on wildlife and fisheries. The research program is supported through contracts and grants of state and federal agencies and non-governmental and private organizations. Facilities include state-of-the-art hardware and software that enable the lab to conduct large-scale survey and spatial research, and the analysis of social and economic data. The HDCLEL seeks to expand understanding of the human aspects of wildlife and fisheries policy, management, economics, and law enforcement through theoretical and practically-driven research, teaching, and continuing education. The research mission of HDCLEL is to provide quality research and insights to help natural resources agencies and organizations have a greater understanding of human stakeholders and their uses, values, attitudes, and perceptions concerning fish and wildlife resources.

Coastal Research and Extension Center is located on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and is with MSU as well as the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium as part of the MSU Sea Grant Extension Program. In addition to Coastal Environmental Extension activities, this center’s program focuses on applied research for many different aspects of marine, estuarine, and wetland ecology with current projects revolving around design and evaluation of effectiveness of coastal restoration projects.

The Center for Resolving Human-Wildlife Conflicts focuses on extension, education, and research. Recent research has focused on impacts of whitetail deer browsing on soybean production and public attitudes and perceptions of wild hogs in Mississippi, a cooperative project with the Mississippi Land, Water, Timber Resources Program. Final analyses from a statewide survey will lay the foundation for providing education programs and legislative development for wild hog management in Mississippi. In 2015, a study was initiated in the Mississippi Delta to quantify both the movement patterns wild hogs and the damage caused to corn production and other crops.

Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GCPO LCC) is a network of state, federal, tribal, university, and non-profit partners working together to address a shared vision of sustaining natural and cultural landscapes in the face of a changing climate and other threats. The GCPO LCC works with the Geosystems Research Institute (GRI) and Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Forest and Wildlife Research Center through a series of cooperative agreements to support LCC conservation science staff, administrative operations and multi-resource research opportunities. Research efforts of GCPO LCC represents conservation partnerships that span over 180 million acres in 12 southeastern states. A primary mission of research conducted by GCPO LCC is to define, design, and deliver sustainable natural and cultural landscapes now and into the future.

To Learn More, Contact Us!

The Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Aquaculture
Box 9690
Mississippi State, MS 39762-9690

Room 205A Thompson Hall

Phone: 662-325-3133
Fax: 662-325-8726


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