A longtime Mississippi State faculty member has been named the Taylor Chair in Applied Big Game Research and Instruction in the College of Forest Resources.
Steve Demarais, a Dale H. Arner Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Management in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture, is a leading white-tailed deer researcher who has been with the university for more than 20 years. In that time, Demarais has published more than 130 peer-reviewed publications and led numerous master's and doctoral students in applied research programs. In 2018, Demarais received the prestigious Deer Management Career Achievement Award from the Southeastern Deer Study Group. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to white-tailed deer ecology and management.
He also holds a research appointment in MSU's Forest and Wildlife Research Center and co-directs the university's Deer Ecology and Management Laboratory alongside Bronson Strickland, the St. John Family Endowed Professor of Wildlife Management. MSU's deer lab is one of the country's leading deer research units, developing novel tools, including three smartphone applications, to improve landowners' ability to manage their properties for deer and other big game.
Demarais said support for applied research in big game management is vital in Mississippi, pointing out that deer hunting brings in roughly $1 billion annually to the state's economy. He also noted that MSU has been a research leader for this particular economic driver.
"Historically, the College of Forest Resources has been known for the applied nature of our research in big game ecology and management." Demarais said. "This gift will further the field of ecology that applies to the management of our natural resources on the land."
He said the honor is a recognition of the research he has made his life's work.
"This honor is important to me because it recognizes what I have tried to do my whole career—conduct research that matters to landowners and biologists," he said. "It's impactful for the department because it ensures this applied research will be supported in perpetuity."
The endowment was born out of a friendship between Patrick F. Taylor, founder and owner of Taylor Land & Cattle Company, and Harry Jacobson, professor emeritus in the College of Forest Resources. The Patrick F. Taylor Foundation is based in New Orleans, Louisiana.
"Dr. Jacobson, my predecessor, worked with the Taylors on two properties—one in Mississippi and another in New Mexico—conducting research and providing advice on how to manage those properties," explained Demarais, who also conducted research on the Taylors' Mississippi property. "The Taylors appreciated Dr. Jacobson's contribution in helping them manage for big game and sought to support future research that landowners could apply to new management questions."
George Hopper, MSU dean of the College of Forest Resources, said the gift promotes educational and environmental stewardship.
"While Phyllis and the late Patrick F. Taylor have primarily focused their philanthropic efforts on education, their impact extends far beyond the classroom," Hopper said. "With this gift, the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation ensures the training of tomorrow's leaders in wildlife biology while supporting meaningful research that helps landowners better manage their land for big game now and into the future."
Demarais earned his bachelor's in wildlife biology at the University of Massachusetts. He earned a master's in wildlife ecology and doctoral degree in forest resources, both from Mississippi State.
Learn more about MSU's deer lab at msudeer.com.