Special Symposia

Special symposia announced & regular call for presentations will open soon!

The following organized symposia will be offered as part of the technical program. Those indicated as “INVITE ONLY“ will include only speakers invited by organizer to present.


Organizers: Jasmine Batten, Wildlife Health Program Supervisor, Missouri Dept. of Conservation, jasmine.batten@mdc.mo.gov; Jason Isabelle, Missouri Department of Conservation

Overview: Infectious diseases are increasingly recognized as one of the biggest threats to wildlife conservation. In recent decades, chronic wasting disease (CWD) has emerged as one of the greatest challenges wildlife managers face, with potentially far-reaching ecological, economic, and social consequences. Further, potential human health risks are unknown, but research to date on CWD prions and experience with other prion diseases has lead human health officials to recommend taking a prudent approach in minimizing human exposure. In the decades since CWD was first described, significant strides have been made towards understanding the biology and ecology of this disease, but progress towards the development of effective communication and management strategies has been slow. Progress has been further complicated by political pressures, shifting constituent demographics, and communication and information barriers. Chronic wasting disease prevention and response efforts are highly varied across states and regions, resulting from differences in landscape and cervid population characteristics, length of time CWD has been in a population, existing regulatory frameworks, public relations, political climate, and available agency resources. Despite these differences, common challenges to managing the disease have emerged. This session will explore several of these challenges, including addressing issues associated with carcass movement and disposal; communicating effectively with the public and maintaining hunter support of CWD regulations and management actions; managing CWD across geopolitical boundaries; and managing the disease at the confined and free-ranging wildlife interface. Exploring lessons learned to date could help states already struggling with CWD explore potential solutions and allow states yet to detect the disease to be better prepared for future CWD response.

Theme: wildlife disease management challenges; chronic wasting disease


Organizers: Thomas Bonnot, Assistant Research Professor, University of Missouri, bonnott@missouri.edu; Nate Muenks, Natural Resource Management Planner, Missouri Department of Conservation

Overview:  The natural resource field has increasingly focused on a long-term, landscape-scale approach to conservation to address global change—one that emphasizes coordination among partners and understands the necessity of engaging private landowners. States have been critical partners in these approaches given their ability to establish and manage conservation reserves and protected areas and access programs that support habitat conservation on private lands. And states are supported in their efforts by regional partnerships that focus on landscape conservation design to help guide partners in their planning with production of information, tools, maps, and strategies to achieve landscape goals. Therefore, this symposium will focus on the interaction of Missouri’s role as a state at stepping down regional to landscape-level planning and carrying out conservation across landscapes.

Theme: landscape conservation planning state


Organizers: Mallory Martin, SECAS Coordinator, US Fish & Wildlife Service, mallory_martin@fws.gov; Rua Mordecai, Southeast Blueprint Coordinator, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Raleigh, NC

Overview: The Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy is directed toward a vision of connected lands and waters that support thriving fish and wildlife populations and improved quality of life for people.  In support of that vision, SECAS partners are using the framework and tools of the initiative to make significant conservation accomplishments.  Moreover, as a regional conservation initiative, SECAS is evolving in its governance and decision-making approaches, and is seeking to sustain its value for partners and determine strategic direction for the future.  In this symposium, we will demonstrate the most recent progress, updates, and refinements of the tools of the initiative and their application to relevant conservation decisions.  The symposium will also focus on the results and recommendations of a collaboration project examining the governance structure and future direction for the initiative.  A facilitated breakout session will engage attendees and participants in a structured discussion focusing on specific topics surrounding application of the products of SECAS and the appropriate directions for the initiative into the future.  The outcomes of the facilitated session will help inform recommendations to the SECAS steering committee on specific actions intended to sustain the initiative.

Theme: Collaborative Landscape Conservation


Organizers: Brent Murry, Science Coordinator, Science Application-FWS, brent_murry@fws.gov; Jessica Graham, Southeast  Aquatic Resources Partnership (SARP), jessica@southeastaquatics.net; Duncan Elkins, University of Georgia, delkins@uga.edu

Overview:  Conservation planning has developed into a distinctive science, driven by wide-spread multi-scale anthropogenic insults and the desire and mandates to maintain biodiversity and ecological services.  Over the last decade conservation planning has ambitiously begun to tackle landscape-scale conservation planning.  Unfortunately, we have reached a point where many landscapes have multiple (both competing and complementary) plans.  Federal agencies, states, and NGOs operating at various scales all seem to have their own priorities and plans that vary in content, scale, and complexity.  Conservation strategies tend to be resource-based, e.g. driven by patterns in taxon-specific biodiversity, or threat-based, e.g. intended to reduce the impacts of specific or suites of threats.  The existence of multiple plans for the same region reduces efficiency in conservation delivery, reduces collaborative opportunities, and reduces our ability to meaningfully connect local conservation efforts to measurable progress toward regional goals.  The goals of this symposium are to: compare and contrast the driving forces (organizational, resource or threat) underscoring regional conservation strategies in an effort to identify steps toward integration of strategies to increase implementation efficiency, and to identify approaches to step-down regional plans to actionable local activities and conversely scale-up local conservation actions toward accountability at regional scales.

Theme: landscape planning; freshwater conservation


Organizers: Cody Rhoden, Small Game Biologist, KDFWR, cody.rhoden@ky.gov; John J Morgan; KDFWR; Mark Gudlin; TWRA; David Breithaupt; LDWF

Overview:  The states included in the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies are, on average, composed of 89% privately owned land. This land is where the vast majority of sportspeople recreate. It also holds the majority of critical habitat for threatened and endangered species in the southeastern United States. The role of state fish and wildlife agencies in managing this private land for wildlife is the key to conservation relevancy in the future. Currently, there is a lack of commitment by state fish and wildlife agencies in the southeast to meet the demands of private lands conservation. This symposium seeks to address successful state programs for private lands conservation along with novel solutions in an attempt to foster regional dialogue on the relevancy and critical importance of private land conservation in the United States. The format of the symposium along with the topics covered will be aimed at an audience of state fish and wildlife agency wildlife chief/director level participants.

Theme: Private Lands Conservation Critical Assessment


Organizers: Sherri Russell, State Wildlife Veterinarian, Missouri Department of Conservation, Sherri.Russell@mdc.mo.gov; Rebecca O'Hearn, Jasmine Batten, Katrina Knott, Stuart Miller - Missouri Department of Conservation>

Overview:  One Health as a construct explores the interaction between ecosystems , animals and people using the lens of connection interdependence. For natural resource professionals the promotion and cultivation of healthy systems of soil, water, terrestrial landscapes, wildlife, aquatic species is day to day work.  This symposia will look at the explicit connections including sublethal exposure to toxicants, soils as part of health, Covid 19 and wildlife , movement as a driver of disease epidemiology and disease threats by taxa and a discussion of ticks a mover of disease and a threat to the enjoyment of the outdoors will be discussed.

Theme: Design for the future In the Age of Disease

7. STAGGS CASE  (Invite Only)

Organizers: Eric Vaughn, Special Investigator, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, vaughne@dnr.sc.gov

Overview:  A deer case involving a suspect that killed over 300 deer illegally over a period of one year on depredation permits.  Suspect was charging fees illegally for hunters to pay to shoot on depredation permits issued for crop damage for antlerless deer only.  Bucks were killed during illegal hunting activities and antler velvet collected for sale in addition to illegal meat sales.  The investigation included ZETX phone tracking and a full undercover operation of 3 undercover special investigators.  Suspect was using a 1993 Lincoln Continental set up for night hunting with a sunroof and special lights.
The technology used in this case tracking cell phones gave great advantages to investigators on one of the worst deer violations in South Carolina history, including permit violations, gross over limit of permit limits, shooting of bucks, night hunting, selling deer meat, selling illegal hunts, and collecting of antler velvet for sale.
With the use of phone tracking SCDNR Special Investigations was able to track suspects movements and patterns leading to introduction to an undercover officer.  In the end the suspect faces 14 years in prison due to violations, and faces losing hunting privileges' for a lifetime in SC.  The Lincoln was confiscated in addition to a refrigerator truck and several rifles with thermal scopes and hand held FLIR units.
The case is very interesting and helps us see the advantages of using technology for modern wildlife enforcement issues.

Theme: Technology Special Investigations