Along with production agriculture, wildlife is another diverse part of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. Staying committed to the land-grant philosophy, the Bollenbach Chair contributes to teaching, extension and research.
Through the Bollenbach Chair, students can explore management techniques that will stabilize game bird populations and improve wildlife ecosystems. The population of game birds, such as quail and prairie chickens, has declined in the Southwest as well as other parts of the United States. Shrinking habitats for these birds are partly responsible for the loss.
Charles Scifres, former associate director of the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station at OSU, and former Gov. Henry Bellmon shared an idea to create an endowed chair promoting wildlife ecology. Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education joined the effort in September 1996 by matching the private funds raised primarily by Bellmon and Charles Browning, dean and director emeritus of the division. The idea was officially a “go” when the OSU Agricultural Experiment Station made a long-term commitment to the project.
Homed in the department of forestry, the chair honors the late Irvin Bollenbach. A long-time friend of Bellmon, Bollenbach was a well-known rancher and, more importantly, a bobwhite hunter from Kingfisher, Okla.
Even though the Bollenbach Chair was named after a bobwhite enthusiast, its charge involves much more.
The charge includes establishing biologically and economically viable management systems for private range and forestlands and advising and directing graduate students conducting research on natural resources. Its mission is to get management information into the hands of users through wildlife, forestry and range specialists. Conducting research on game and non-game birds in upland settings is also a goal of the Bollenbach Chair.
Fred Guthery, faculty member funded by the endowment, joined OSU in the fall of 1997. He is originally from Stanfield, Ore., and has been a hunter since he was in the fourth grade. He grew up on a farm where geese, ducks, pheasants and muskrats were plentiful.
Guthery graduated from Oregon State University with a bachelor’s degree in wildlife ecology then received master’s and doctoral degrees in wildlife from Texas A&M University. In 1977 he went to Texas Tech University where he was an assistant professor and taught waterfowl management, population dynamics, ecology and management of upland game which include quail, pheasant, dove, sandhill cranes, cottontails and grouse. He also did research relating to pheasants, ducks, prairie chickens and bobwhites as well as the diseases that affect them.
In 1984 Guthery moved to Kingsville, Texas, to work at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute. He continued bobwhite research there.
“In that part of the world bobwhites are important to ranchers,” Guthery said.
Guthery makes visits to ranchers to talk about game management and has written essays and had articles published in The Cattleman and Quail Unlimited.
“I like to do the articles for two reasons: first to get reliable information out to the public and second if you sit down and write it, you understand it,” Guthery said.
Guthery is helping students and Oklahomans by doing what he enjoys.
“I feel lucky to be in Oklahoma and at OSU in this position,” Guthery said.
Jeffrey Lusk of Lemont, Ill., is working on his doctorate in zoology, developing a neural network model to predict bobwhite and scaled quail abundance in Oklahoma and Texas.
“I wanted to stick with birds, landscape and population ecology and this was perfect for what I was looking for,” Lusk said.
Heather Wilson, of Wheatland, Wyo., is pursuing a master’s degree in wildlife ecology. She is focusing on the calling behavior of bobwhite males. Wilson started her master’s degree after working in seven different states in the wildlife industry for six years.
“I’ve always been interested in natural systems,” Wilson said.
Two other graduate students are part of the Bollenbach Chair at this time. Gina Crowder, of Washington, Ind., is a doctoral student in zoology, studying the genetics and health of quail populations and possible effects of habitat fragmentation. Kim Suedkamp of Taos, N.M., is focusing on the effects of grazing on ground nesting birds.
The Bollenbach Chair is making its mark at OSU and is one of the five endowed wildlife chairs in the country. It is providing students another way to further their education, preserve wildlife and help others in agriculture.
By Lydia Laske