Date of Award

12-1-2011

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Forestry

First Advisor

Seekamp, Erin

Second Advisor

Sparling, Donald

Abstract

AN ABSTRACT OF THE THESIS OF HAILEY N. MOSS, for the Master of Science degree in FORESTRY, presented October 5, 2011, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale TITLE: ASSESSING THE NECESSITY OF A WILDLIFE TOXICOLOGY CERTIFICATE: A SURVEY OF PROFESSIONAL PERCEPTIONS MAJOR PROFESSORS: DR. ERIN SEEKAMP, DR. DONALD SPARLING Wildlife toxicology is a field that incorporates ecology, physiology, and chemistry in the study of how contaminants in the environment affect wildlife species. During a 2007 conference sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute, the question was raised of whether a certification program would be beneficial to wildlife toxicology and hold practitioners to similarly high standards of knowledge and practice. This discussion was not unlike those that occurred in the 1980's when The Wildlife Society (TWS) was discussing certification of wildlife biologists. Discussion at the 2007 conference resulted in a study to: (1) assess the necessity of a wildlife toxicology certificate; (2) identify the elements such certification would require; (3) evaluate the desirability of separate certificates for aquatic and terrestrial wildlife toxicology; and (4) collect professional opinion of current and future employment opportunities in the field. A questionnaire was developed using the Delphi method with 20 experts whose names were identified from professional membership databases (i.e., Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) and TWS), purposively selecting for a range of specializations and sectors. The finalized questionnaire was administered online in summer 2010 to the remainder of the sample. The survey was administered to 181 professionals and 121 surveys were completed (67% response rate). Survey results indicate a high level of variability in support for a wildlife toxicology certificate. Specifically, 35.5% of respondents believed there should be a certificate, 23.1% did not believe there should be a certificate, and 41.3% were unsure. Responses regarding requirements of a certificate, as well as a certificate's advantages and disadvantages, were also highly variable. Both aquatic and wildlife toxicologists predicted that opportunity would increase in their fields in 5-10 years; however, government employees were significantly less optimistic than those who work in academia or the private sector. The results of this study are of interest to wildlife toxicology practitioners and would be useful to a governing body wishing to host a certification program, helping them strategically market the needs and benefits of such.

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