The Wildlife Society

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Not to be confused with the Wildlife Conservation Society
The Wildlife Society
Motto Excellence in wildlife stewardship through science and education
Formation 1937
Type Non-profit scientific and educational association
Headquarters Bethesda, Maryland
7,500+ members

Founded in 1937, The Wildlife Society (TWS) is an international non-profit scientific and educational association dedicated to excellence in wildlife stewardship through science and education. The Wildlife Society works to improve wildlife conservation in North America by advancing the science of wildlife management, promoting continuing education of wildlife professionals, and advocating for sound, science-based wildlife policy. The organization also encourages professional growth through certification, peer-reviewed publications, conferences, and working groups.

Society members are dedicated to sustainable management of wildlife resources and their habitats. Ecology is the primary scientific discipline of the wildlife profession; therefore, the interests of the Society embrace the interactions of all organisms with their natural environments. The Society supports the belief that wildlife, in its myriad forms, is basic to the maintenance of a human culture that provides quality living.


The Wildlife Society was founded during the 1930s, a time of growing interest in the restoration of wildlife populations and the emergence of the new profession of game management. Influential leaders in the fledgling conservation movement – among them Aldo Leopold and J.N. (Ding) Darling – triggered by mounting concern over the decimation of wildlife caused by severe drought, widespread poaching, and deteriorating habitats, saw the need to gather and disseminate scientific knowledge.

The Wildlife Society, initially known as The Society of Wildlife Specialists, was launched at the North American Wildlife Conference in Washington, D.C., in 1936. A year later, in St. Louis, Missouri, the Specialists became The Wildlife Society. A constitution and bylaws were adopted in 1937, and the Society was incorporated on March 25, 1948. A 50-year history of the Society (1937–1987) can be found in the Wildlife Society Bulletin.[1]

Over time, The Wildlife Society has broadened its programs beyond its original focus on scientific publications to include:

  • Certification of wildlife biologists;
  • Continuing education of wildlife professionals at an annual conference;
  • Training opportunities through a network of over 50 chapters, 90 student chapters, and a dozen working groups;
  • An awards program recognizing outstanding contributions to the profession of wildlife management;
  • A leadership institute to train aspiring leaders in the wildlife field;
  • A renewed and strengthened attention on advocating for science-based wildlife policy.

Just as the profession has evolved from a focus on game management to encompass all wildlife species and ecosystems, so too has the Society’s outlook broadened into these areas. Through it all, The Wildlife Society has remained dedicated to excellence in wildlife stewardship through science and education.


The Society’s broad interests are depicted in its unique emblem, featuring Egyptian hieroglyphics. The figures, from top to bottom, represent mammals, birds, fish, and flowering plants. While The Wildlife Society generally doesn’t address fish conservation, which is recognized as a distinct science, the Society is actively involved in the conservation of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and ecosystems.


The Wildlife Society is governed by an elected Council of four officers (President, President-Elect, Vice President, and Past President) and representatives from each of the Society’s eight North American sections (Northeast, Southeastern, North Central, Central Mountains and Plains, Southwest, Northwest, Western, and Canada). A professional staff directs and implements TWS programs from the headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland.

Many of the Society's programs rely significantly upon the dedication and expertise of members. Members serve on committees that prepare technical analyses of current conservation issues, recommend changes to Society programs, and select recipients for TWS awards. The Society's members also volunteer their time as scientific editors of Society publications and as hosts for the Annual Conference.

Members have an opportunity for greater involvement in TWS activities through a network of more than 50 chapters, 90 student chapters, and 19 working groups. Chapters and student chapters are organized by geographical boundaries (generally a state, province, college, or university), whereas working groups are organized by subject area (such as biological diversity, wildlife damage management, and wildlife toxicology). Five wildlife conclaves (Western, Central, Northeastern, Southeastern, and Southwestern) are informal assemblages of TWS student chapters that meet annually to expand students’ horizons and promote camaraderie. Conclave activities include seminars, field trips, a quiz bowl, and other events.


For the qualified wildlife professional, The Wildlife Society offers a peer-review certification program. Certification constitutes official recognition that a wildlife biologist meets the Society’s rigorous standards for education, experience, and ethics. The primary objective of the program is to provide private clients, employers, and the public with access to qualified professionals and reliable advice in matters concerning wildlife resources.

Certification by The Wildlife Society is based on a person’s education and experience. Three categories are offered:

  1. Certified Wildlife Biologist – The requirements for this certificate include:
    1. Completion of rigorous academic requirements at a college/university.
    2. Experience as a wildlife biologist for five years.
    3. Agreement to comply with The Wildlife Society’s Code of Ethics for Wildlife Professionals.

The applicant’s coursework and experience are thoroughly examined by the Society’s Certification Review Board, a group of long-standing and highly qualified members who represent a broad range of wildlife backgrounds. Once certified, the applicant must continue enhancing his or her knowledge of the most current wildlife management principles and techniques in order to recertify in five years.

  1. Associate Wildlife Biologist – The requirements for this certificate include:
    1. Completion of rigorous academic requirements at a college/university.
    2. Agreement to comply with The Wildlife Society’s Code of Ethics for wildlife professionals.

The applicant’s coursework is thoroughly examined by the Society’s Certification Review Board. Once certified, the applicant has 10 years to complete five years of professional work experience as a wildlife biologist. At that point, the applicant may apply for certification as a Certified Wildlife Biologist.

  1. Professional Development – The requirement for this certificate includes:
    1. Commitment to lifelong learning and enhanced professionalism.
    2. Agreement to comply with The Wildlife Society’s Code of Ethics for wildlife professionals.

Credit towards this certificate is earned by participation in activities such as attending symposia, short courses, distance learning courses, workshops, training sessions, technical sessions at professional meetings, and regular college courses provided by public or private institutions.


The society publishes three scientific journals: Journal of Wildlife Management, Wildlife Society Bulletin, andWildlife Monographs. In addition to the its scholarly journals, the Society publishes The Wildlife Professional, a popular magazine for members. Other important publications include technical reviews featuring analyses of current issues in wildlife conservation that are written by expert panels.

Wildlife policy[edit]

Through applying sound science to proposed wildlife conservation legislation and regulations, The Wildlife Society takes a leadership role in key federal wildlife policy issues in the United States. With its exceptional access to the expertise of thousands of professionals, TWS is uniquely qualified to develop comprehensive technical analyses of current wildlife management issues. Recent analyses have covered such timely topics as management and conservation of forests and wetlands, restoration of wolves, wildlife conservation options in agricultural policy, wildlife management in wilderness, wildlife fertility control, impacts of wind energy on wildlife, the public trust doctrine, and confinement of wild ungulates.

The TWS Government Affairs department publishes quarterly, online issues of Wildlife Policy News. Each issue features a series of articles intended to foster information exchange among Society leaders and wildlife professionals regarding policy issues.[2]

Primary policy priorities for The Wildlife Society include:

International activities[edit]

Although The Wildlife Society’s membership is international, most of its members reside in the United States and Canada. To keep abreast of international issues and welcome international participation in its programs, the Society engages in several international forums, most notably, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the International Union of Game Biologists (IUGB), and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The Society also takes the lead in organizing an international wildlife management congress approximately every five years in a different region of the world. The first three congresses were held in Costa Rica (1993), Hungary (1999), New Zealand (2003), South Africa (2012), Japan (2015).

Annual conference[edit]

The Wildlife Society’s annual conference is a forum for networking and continuing education available to students and wildlife professionals. It is attended by as many as 2,000 biologists from around the world, making it an excellent setting for developing professional contacts, investigating employment opportunities, and initiating and renewing friendships with fellow wildlifers.

Over five days, sessions on a wide range of research and management topics are presented. One of the highlights is the plenary session, where prominent and award-winning scientists address current environmental topics. The conference is further augmented by workshops that provide a hands-on opportunity to learn new methods and technology. Conference attendees also benefit from the opportunity to stay on top of and help influence national and international wildlife issues. And for many, the chance to present their own work to a large audience of their peers at the conference is especially rewarding.


The Wildlife Society recognizes outstanding achievements and distinguished service in the wildlife field by conferring the following annual awards:

  • Aldo Leopold Memorial Award – Honors distinguished service to wildlife conservation and is the highest honor bestowed by the Society
  • Chapter of the Year and Student Chapter of the Year – Awarded to encourage and recognize exceptional achievements
  • Student Chapter Advisor of the Year – Recognizes exceptional mentorship of a TWS student chapter
  • Conservation Education Award – Honors outstanding accomplishments in the dissemination of conservation knowledge to the public in the categories of writings, media, programs, and audio-visual works
  • Ethnic and Gender Diversity Award – Honors innovative programs and individuals that promote diversity in employment, academic enrollment, and membership
  • Group Achievement Award – Recognizes an organization’s outstanding wildlife achievement that is consistent with and/or assists in advancing TWS objectives
  • Honorary Membership – Recognizes continuous outstanding service to any area of concern to TWS
  • Jim McDonough Award – Recognizes a Certified Wildlife Biologist significantly contributing to the profession as an active TWS member
  • Donald H. Rusch Memorial Game Bird Research Scholarship – Assists a graduate student studying upland game bird or waterfowl biology and management
  • Special Recognition Service Award – Honors a member who has made an outstanding contribution to the wildlife profession
  • TWS Fellow – Recognizes members who have distinguished themselves through exceptional service to the wildlife profession
  • Wildlife Publication Awards – Recognizes excellence in scientific writing (Article, Monograph, Book, and Editorship)


  1. ^ Swanson, G.A. 1987. Creation and early history. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 15(1):9–14.
  2. ^ "2012 Wildlife Policy Priorities". The Wildlife Society. Retrieved 2012-03-18. 

External links[edit]