If you spend any time on a farm, you quickly realize that people and livestock aren’t the only inhabitants. The fields, fencerows, woodlots and wetlands are home to plenty of wildlife, which can provide a lot of enjoyment and a certain amount of aggravation.
Jamie Nack teaches UW-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course students how to manage wildlife on the farm to maximize the benefits and deal with the problems. Her engaging and innovative approach motivated her students and colleagues to nominate her for a 2012 FISC John S. Donald Excellence in Teaching Award. She received the honor last spring.
Her ability to make her course material compelling to her students stems from Nack’s genuine love of wildlife.
“I've been interested in wildlife and natural resources since I was young,” Nack says. “Growing up in a rural area near Howards Grove, I spent a lot of time outdoors, and it was through shared experiences in the field with my father that I gained an appreciation for nature.”
Nack originally set out to become a wildlife biologist, but switched tracks when she was working as a teaching assistant for UW-Madison wildlife ecologist Scott Craven. She learned that the department had an opening for an Extension wildlife outreach specialist. “As they say,” she says, “the rest is history!”
As an outreach specialist, Nack conducts educational programs for youth and adult audiences around the state. Topics include wildlife management on private lands, wildlife damage management and general ecology. She also answers questions from the public on everything from wildlife identification to damage abatement.
During her three-week FISC class, Nack talks about managing habitats and strategies for dealing with nuisance wildlife or wildlife damage. She makes those concepts real by having each student develop a detailed wildlife management plan for his or her own farms. Starting with aerial photos, students create maps detailing features important to wildlife—things like brush piles, nut trees, berry patches and hollow trees. They complete the project by setting wildlife-related goals for their farms, developing action plans and identifying necessary resources.
Nack’s approach gets the students engaged. One FISC student who helped nominate Nack for the teaching award admitted that while she wasn’t sure what she was getting into when she signed up, the course turned out to be her favorite.
Another student, Lindsay Lainberger, says, “Her ability to interact with all the students in the class was incredible. I believe she is a wonderful educator and I would definitely take another class from her, hands down, any day.”
Nack’s colleagues echo these sentiments. “Jamie has developed the curriculum so this course is a unique, dynamic learning experience for each student,” notes Associate Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist David Drake. “She has an abundance of personal experiences hunting, trapping and observing wildlife, and she draws on these experiences to personalize her lectures.”
Nack says she feels fortunate to be part of the FISC program. “It provides a fantastic opportunity for students pursuing careers in agriculture,” she says. “I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with the next generation of farmers to achieve their wildlife-related goals.”
This fall Nack will celebrate ten years of teaching and says she could not be happier about the wonderful mix of opportunities she has had to work with a diverse group of stakeholders in the state.
“Everyone I work with enjoys wildlife in some way and has a story to share,” she says. “I might be in a kindergarten classroom one day, teaching aspiring farmers in the FISC program the next, and coordinating a workshop for private landowners who are interested in attracting more wildlife on the weekend.”