The Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies named W. Matthew Knox the 2016 Wildlife Biologist of the Year at their annual meeting in Baton Rouge this week. Knox is the deer project co-leader for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF).
“Matt has made significant contributions to important regional and national deer management initiatives,” SEAFWA President Gordon Myers said. “He is depended upon for wisdom and experience on myriad deer-related issues by his peers as evidenced by his being selected to represent wildlife agency deer biologists on a panel at the inaugural North American Deer Alliance Conference in 2014.”
Knox has a reputation for scientific integrity, critical thinking and attention to detail. He has published numerous technical and popular articles boldly addressing sometimes controversial issues such as captive deer facilities, the spread of chronic wasting disease and deer feeding and baiting.
“Matt’s long tenure as Virginia’s deer project leader is unusual for such a high profile, stressful position, but he continually approaches all aspects of his position with a passionate commitment to the principles of sound science and ethics,” said VDGIF Director Bob Duncan.
Beginning as project leader in 1992, Knox led the development of Virginia’s first comprehensive deer management plan and three updates. He designed the first statewide disease surveillance program in response to the discovery of chronic wasting disease in Wisconsin in 2002. As new deer management issues and responsibilities emerged, a deer project co-leader was added in 2003.
Though long-tenured, Knox embraces the use of technology to advance wildlife management as well. He has worked with staff to develop several important databases to help managers address current management issues and provide an important vision for future needs, worked closely with the IT department to coordinate operation of the electronic harvest reporting system, and manages the statewide Deer Management Assistance Program through a centralized and largely electronic process.
Despite his busy work schedule, Knox very generously gives of his time to assist constituents and coworkers. His is an avid promoter of Hunters for the Hungry, a charitable organization that accepts donations of venison from hunters to provide high-protein, healthy meal supplements to needy families.
Prior to joining the VDGIF, Knox worked for the South Carolina Wildlife and Marine Resources Department and the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study. He holds degrees in zoology and wildlife management from the University of Georgia, and he has served as treasurer and audit committee chair for the Virginia chapter of the Wildlife Society.
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.