Got Nature? Blog

Picture of Brain MacGowan

Brian MacGowan, Wildlife Extension Specialist and Extension Coordinator.

Agricultue Natural Resources (ANR) Newsletter: Dr. Brian MacGowan is an Extension wildlife specialist and Extension coordinator in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR). Brian grew up in rural St. Joseph County and began his career in Extension in 1999.

Part of Brian’s Extension program focuses on professional development in cooperation with many agencies and organizations including the Indiana Chapter of the Wildlife Society, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and Fur Takers of America. For example, Brian works with the FTA and DNR to conduct the Professional Trappers College Furbearer Management Short Course held annually since 1980. Nuisance wildlife control operators, conservation officers, wildlife biologists, and trappers attend a week-long workshop.  Almost all participants report improved trapping skills (98%) and that the knowledge gained will help them in their professional career (87%).

Much of his Extension and research has focused on management on public and private woodlands. He served as a co-PI on the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment ( where he studied the effects of timber harvesting on movement and survival of timber rattlesnakes and box turtles. More recently, Brian worked with Dr. Linda Prokopy to evaluate the impact of the Forest Management for the Private Woodland Owner Course and its role in the landowner decision-making process.

Brian also co-instructs (with Dr. Rod Williams) FNR506 Theory and Application of Natural Resources Extension Programming. Since 2012, graduate students per department policy develop a logic model, an Extension plan and an Extension deliverable. In FNR506, students increase their familiarity with natural resource Extension programs, create a logic model based on their own research and Extension interests, develop a plan that outlines extension goals, and increase skills for communicating with non-scientific audiences. To date 270 students have completed the course and produced more than 400 Extension deliverables. A recent academic review showed that “integration of Extension training and activity into the graduate program has been a great success, helping students better understand the role of Extension and outreach into the land grant mission.” Based on data from course evaluations, student interest in Extension has increased 66 percent as a result of the class and 42 percent of students said they would consider a career in Extension.

Image of Brian conducting field work in the woods

Brian conducting field work in the woods.

MacGowan launched the Natural Resources Extension internship program in 2015. This program, which is funded through the Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA), helps students develop leadership and decision-making skills, increase communication skills, build professional references, and clarify career goals while also enhancing the scope and capacity of the FNR Extension program. Proposals are submitted to a departmental committee, which selects up to three paid internships to be awarded each funding cycle. Eric Norland, the RREA National Program leader, described the internship program as “unique and innovative” and noted “how forward-looking and beneficial (this program is) to both the program and the intern.” Thus far, 21 students have participated in internships, producing 30 videos and 16 publications, helping organize 22 workshops, making 19 presentations, hosting booths at 12 events, and contributing to 15 demonstration areas. A survey following the internships showed a 64 percent increase in a student considering a career in Extension and a 52 percent improvement in ability to speak with non-scientific audiences.

According to Brian, he received some valuable advice early in his career. “One of the best things about working in Extension is you are only limited by time and your imagination. If you have an idea that is good enough, someone will work with you to see it through.”

Agriculture & Natural Resource (ANR) is comprised of many specialists from Purdue Extension and from departments at Purdue. The Purdue Extension Educators serve as research based, unbiased information source for county and state constituents on a variety of topics including: crops, ag business, livestock, natural resource, horticulture, small farms, urban ag, pesticide use, and land conservation. In partnership with Purdue University subject matter experts, ANR Extension Educators can provide relevant and proven best management practices to address many client’s situational needs.

Wildlife, Playlist, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR) YouTube Channel
Ask the Expert: Birdwatching, Purdue Extension – FNR YouTube Channel
How to Stop Woodland Animals from Digging in Your Flower Pots, Got Nature? Blog with video, Purdue Extension FNR
Considerations for Trapping Nuisance Wildlife with Box Traps, The Education Store
Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment (HEE) – Wildlife Responses to Timber Harvesting, The Education Store
Snakes and Lizards of Indiana, The Education Store
Turtles of Indiana, The Education Store
Attracting Hummingbirds to Your Yard, The Education Store

Agricutlure Natural Resources (ANR)

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