As spring break came to a close, a strange loop was being constructed around the ABAC campus. Early on the morning of Thursday, March 21, members of the ABAC Wildlife Society began setting out tables, stretching from the Alumni House, encompassed Lake Baldwin, the ABAC Farm and the Nature Study area.
The following morning, these tables would have everything from animal skins to pressed plants on them. This was just a fraction of the preparation that went into the 2019 Wildlife Society Southeastern Student Conclave.
Every year, the Wildlife Society hosts conclaves around the nation, as well as in Canada, and a new school is determined to host the event, with 2019 being ABAC’s first year serving as host. It will be another 15 to 20 years before ABAC hosts another.
Knowing this, the ABAC Wildlife Society made sure to be prepared. “We started working on Quiz Bowl questions well over a year ago, and even brainstorming ideas for competitions, and how we were going to design competitions,” Dr. William Moore, head advisor of ABAC’s Wildlife and Forestry departments said. “It’s a long process. Well over a year in advance, you have to start preparing. And making reservations for facilities, all that kind of stuff.”
While preparations continued on Thursday, the competitor schools began to arrive from all over the Southeast. Overall, 21 schools showed up; Arkansas State University, Arkansas Tech University, Auburn University, Clemson University, Cleveland State Community College, Eastern Kentucky University, Frostburg State University, Haywood Community College, Louisiana State University, Louisiana Tech University, Mississippi State University, Murray State University, North Carolina State University, Tennessee Technological University, University of Arkansas at Monticello, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Tennessee at Martin, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Virginia Tech and Western Carolina University.
After registration, all the schools gathered in the Gressette Gym that evening for dinner. All food was provided by the Dining Hall, except for the meal at the award banquet, which was catered. “The lunches, dinners and the rest of it was nothing but the Dining Hall. They did an amazing job. Everyone was complimentary,” Moore told The Stallion.
To close out the first day, the only competition event for Thursday was held, the Game Calling contest, where contestants demonstrated their knowledge of and skill at calling various animals.
Friday morning saw ABAC Wildlife Society Students up early and delivering the needed materials to the loop of tables that had been prepared the day before, including wildlife specimens ranging from deer antlers to preserved insects.
This loop was the main course for the day’s team competition. Each school’s team had five minutes to get to their station and answer as many questions as they could in that time before an airhorn would signal them to move on to the next. Teams raced from station to station, identifying plant specimens, scoring antelope horns and everything in between.
However, team competition was just one part of the day. Afterward, school competitors broke off for individual competitions. Some of these, like the lab practical and museum skin study, was held on campus, while physical competitions like archery and an obstacle course were held at places like the ABAC school forest.
The day ended with a low country boil at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture, complete with music and a social afterward.
The team and individual competitions took up most of the previous day, however, one of the most anticipated events of the conclave would not begin until the next day.
Quiz Bowl is an academic contest where school teams are quizzed on a wide range of topics, all pertaining to wildlife, in a Jeopardy-like
“We pretty much took everything related to wildlife management, broke it up into different subject matters, and then just came up with a percentage of questions relating to each of those subject matters to build the Quiz Bowl,” Moore said.
Quiz Bowl was held at the UGA Conference Center and live-streamed by the Media Department. While the teams competed, the audience could step across the hall and view another competition, the Artistic category. Here, students submitted wildlife artwork in a range of styles, including photography, drawing and free-form.
Quiz Bowl wrapped up around lunch time, but even then the day wasn’t over. After lunch, groups of students from all the schools loaded up in busses and set out on field trips to various wildlife-related sites in the surrounding area; places like the Flint Riverquarium, Broxton Rocks and the Cordele Fish Hatchery. They were able to tour the sites and talk to experts in different fields.
To bring the busy weekend to a close, Saturday evening ended with the much-anticipated award banquet. After a raffle and a catered meal, with ABAC students acting as servers, the results were announced.
For Quiz Bowl, University of Georgia was first, the University of Tennessee at Martin was second and Mississippi State took third. For Team Competition, University of Georgia took first again, University of Tennessee-Knoxville was second and North Carolina State University was third. For Intellectual Competitions, University of Georgia was first, Haywood Community College was second and Mississippi State University tied with University of Florida for third. For Physical Competition, the University of Arkansas at Monticello took first, Tennessee Technological University was second and Haywood Community College was third. And for the Artistic category, University of Georgia took first, Haywood was second and Mississippi State took third.
One of the most involved students in organizing Conclave was Matthew Cooper, president of the ABAC Wildlife Society’s chapter. “Everybody worked very hard. I was proud of my students who were able to give up their spring break to help me. And I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from the students from other schools who said they really enjoyed it.”
Cooper also had praise for the competitors. “I guess they performed well. We tried to make it difficult enough, where it wouldn’t be easy for them to get a lot of points, so we would have a lot of ties. But there were a few competitions were schools did very well, and we did have to decide very close winners.”
Congratulations to the winners, and thank you to those students and faculty who helped make this event possible.