The Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) named Melynda Hickman the 2018 Wildlife Biologist of the Year at their annual meeting in Mobile this week. Hickman is a Wildlife Diversity Biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC).
“Melynda was selected by her peers for a clear dedication to promoting and conserving Oklahoma’s natural resources,” SEAFWA President Chuck Sykes said. “Her engagement in public education events and programs establish connections with future generations that all of our state agencies and the wildlife we manage depend upon.”
Hickman serves as ODWC’s Watchable Wildlife Program Leader and has implemented and continues to lead several important conservation education efforts in the state. For example, now it its 23rd year, the Selman Bat Cave Wildlife Management Area bat watch program has allowed more than 10,000 people the unique opportunity to experience the nightly emergence of around one million Mexican free-tailed bats.
“Melynda is a tireless worker, a tremendous ambassador for the ODWC and well-respected among her peers and the public we serve,” said ODWC Director J. D. Strong. “In a profession that's often focused on the hook-and-bullet crowd, Melynda has a unique ability to energize folks about bats, bluebirds, butterflies and the importance of conserving ecosystems as a whole.”
Hickman has been engaged in the state-of-the-art multi-purpose educational facility at Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area in southwest Oklahoma from conception and construction through maintenance and operation. The center and its programs have given students the opportunity to immerse themselves in wetland education, and seasonal events hosted by the center include a monarch watch and tagging program, shorebird, raptor and grassland bird viewing events and an annual Hackberry Flat Day.
Hickman holds a B.S. in biology from Appalachian State University. She worked as an educator in the Norman public school system and the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History before beginning her career with ODWC.
The Association’s Biologist of the Year Awards are presented to two career biologists of state wildlife agencies, one each in the categories of wildlife and fisheries, who in the opinion of the SEAFWA Awards Committee have made outstanding contributions toward wildlife/fisheries conservation.
The Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) is an organization whose members are the state agencies with primary responsibility for management and protection of the fish and wildlife resources in 15 states, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. Member states are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.