Meet Alyssa Winkler
Wildlife resources junior Alyssa Winkler believes in taking full advantage of the hands-on experiential learning opportunities presented to her at CNR. Honor student and president of the University of Idaho Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society, she advises other students to “just get involved in all the things there are to do, just apply. You learn so much more.”
She has followed her own advice. Last summer Alyssa was a DeVlieg Undergraduate Research Scholar at UI’s Taylor Wilderness Research Station in the Frank Church-River-of-No-Return Wilderness. Her project, which looked at species use of different habitat types under different weather conditions, taught her a lot. “It’s the experience of working through the problems you encounter in doing research that helps you become a better wildlife researcher,” she said.
This summer she will further develop her research skills by conducting daily bird and bat mortality surveys for a new wind farm near Rosalia, Washington. “They are trying to figure out the mortality rate for different species—to see if there is anything they can do to mitigate it,” she explained. As part of her research she will also be doing daily observations—watching to see which birds are in the area and how they are reacting to the wind turbines.
Originally from the small town of Ravensdale, Washington, Alyssa grew up hunting and fishing with her father. She knew she wanted to study wildlife and learned about the program at UI from her high school counselor. She visited the school two weeks after first learning about it, met Kerry Reese, professor and head of the wildlife department, and knew that UI was the right place for her. She thought, “This place is really great, there’s no place like it in Washington State. If I’m going to do this, I want to go to a place that’s really known for it.”
The hands-on experiences available through CNR have opened Alyssa's eyes to new career possibilities. “You get to meet real people that are going out and doing what you want to do,” she said.
She sees herself doing behavioral research on species with complex social systems, to learn how they develop social hierarchies. “I didn’t see myself doing research when I first started,” Alyssa said. “I thought I would just be a conservation officer. I didn’t know that there was more to studying animals than just protecting them.”
Club opportunities have also enriched her experience. Members of the Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society have worked with Friends of the Clearwater, assisted at fishing derbies and helped the Idaho Fish and Game Department with hunter check stations. This spring they will volunteer on a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife project to restore Palouse Prairie near Sprague, Washington. Students and other volunteers will be planting trees and shrubs, weeding, repairing fences, mowing and helping with general maintenance as part of the restoration effort.