The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Campus scientist receives top honor

    Wildlife and Fisheries outreach and research scientist James E. “Jim” Miller said he did not expect to receive the Clarence W. Watson Award when he attended the 57th Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies banquet in Mobile, Ala., on Oct. 14.
    The Clarence W. Watson award is given annually to an individual who has dedicated his or her life to contributing to the conservation of natural resources. It is considered the most prestigious prize for those working in the wildlife and fisheries field in the Southeast. The award is also presented by the Southeastern Section of the Wildlife Society and the Southern Division of the American Fisheries Society.
    Miller said he had worked on the selection committee for the award, but never expected to receive it himself.
    “A few years ago I worked on the committee, and I helped select the recipient of it,” Miller said. “I was completely shocked when I received it this year, though.”
    Miller has worked in wildlife and fisheries for nearly 40 years. His work has varied from part-time work with the Florida Game and Fish Commission to National Program Leader for Wildlife and Fisheries under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Many who know and have worked with Miller said they were not surprised that Miller received the award.
    “This award is set up to recognize individuals who have committed their lives to working in wildlife and fisheries,” said (Alabama chief of wildlife) Gary Moody. “Jim demonstrates this perfectly. He has been involved for many years both on the state and on national levels.”
    Ralph Otto, USDA deputy administrator for plant and animal systems, worked with Miller for 11 years.
    “In the wildlife and fisheries field, Jim Miller is a legend,” Otto said. “Everyone in the country who works in wildlife knows about him.”
    Linda Cantrell worked with Miller in Washington, D.C., for six years.
    “Jim has a love and respect for wildlife,” Cantrell said. “He’s an expert in most any aspect of the field, and he’s the type of person who always welcomes any kind of work in the wildlife area. He was always very helpful, no matter how busy he was.”
    Miller, who grew up in northern Alabama, said his commitment to wildlife began early in his life.
    “I grew up in a rural community. I had hunted and fished all my life, but I really didn’t know what I wanted to do until I was a junior in college,” Miller said. “I decided that forestry and wildlife was what I wanted to do.”
    While still an undergraduate at the University of Florida, Miller began working part-time for the Florida Game and Fish Commission. In 1965, he graduated with a bachelor of science in forestry and wildlife management. He first worked for Auburn University, but came back to UF to work on his master’s degree.
    He worked for the USDA at the state level in Arkansas for several years, beginning with his work as an extension wildlife specialist and forester for the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service in 1967.
    In 1978, he began working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a management biologist. A year later, he was picked to be the National Program Leader for Wildlife and Fisheries within the USDA’s cooperative state research, education and extension Service.
    “In his time with the federal government he was effective in establishing important partnerships with other federal groups,” Otto said. “He got along well with everyone.”
    Miller said it was through this working relationship with land-grant universities that he became acquainted with MSU’s department of wildlife and fisheries.
    “I had worked here with the faculty on and off for years, and knew many of the people here,” Miller said. “I liked the program here because it’s still a very applied-type of research.”
    When he decided to retire from his position at the USDA, Miller said he had not intended to continue working, but MSU just seemed like the right place to go.
    “When I retired I wasn’t really looking for a job, but a number of institutions contacted me,” Miller said. “Not only was it [MSU] an institution that I had a lot of respect for, but I was raised in North Alabama, and my folks and my wife’s folks still live there.”
    Because of his devotion to what had once been something he just enjoyed doing for fun, Miller said he could not give up his work in wildlife.
    “After I had worked for a while I knew that my vocation had really become my avocation,” Miller said. “I guess that’s one reason why I continued to work even after I retired.”
    “I think people’s perception changes a lot as they get older. When I was probably about 30, I thought that if I could ever get enough time in to retire, then I would retire and I wouldn’t work again; but the closer I got to retirement, the more I realized I wanted to continue to work.” Miller said.
    Now at MSU Miller holds a split appointment in research and extension. He said he primarily works in sustainable natural resource-based enterprises from hunting and fishing clubs to private individuals.
    “What I do is work with landowners who are interested in managing their wildlife and fishery resources and sustaining their wildlife habitat,” Miller said. “I try to help them figure out better ways to not only manage their resources and sustain them, but also have potential for economic return.”
    “The idea that I can bring something to landowners in terms of educational programs that will help them better understand, not only how to manage their resources but how to do the business management aspect of it as well is probably the best part of the job,” Miller said. “My biggest enjoyment comes from the landowners beginning to realize that these resources are not just adjunct to their other operations- whether it’s agriculture or cattle or forestry-but they should be an integral part and they can manage and get some returns-that wildlife has value beyond just the intrinsic value.”
    In May, Miller co-chaired the first National Symposium on Sustainable Natural Resource-Based Alternative Enterprises at the Bost Extension Center. The symposium hosted speakers from Mississippi, including Secretary of State Eric Clark and President of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation David Waide.
    Throughout his career, Miller devoted a lot of time to writing.
    “I’ve probably published well over 150 in scientific publications, but I also enjoy writing for magazines and newspapers,” Miller said. “I enjoy writing material that’s of an educational nature that helps people better understand how to manage their wildlife resources.”
    Miller said he will stay at MSU for at least five years, and then re-evaluate before deciding whether or not to stay longer.
    “I came here with the idea that I would work up to five years to help develop the program and the infrastructure for it,” Miller said.
    Currently, he is working on setting up programs and workshops.
    “I’m trying to focus on the program here, but also let people in other parts of the world know what we are doing in the area of wildlife and natural resources,” Miller said.
    “He is a scholar, an astute wildlifer, and a first rate gentleman,” Otto said. “He is one of very few people I know that if I were ever lost in the woods without any supplies, I would want to be with him, because he is truly a terrific outdoorsman.”

    Leave a Comment
    More to Discover

    Comments (0)

    All The Reflector Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Activate Search
    The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
    Campus scientist receives top honor