A conference highlight is often a famous keynote speaker, but in this case, the star could be a polar bear, wolf or flock of migrating waterfowl.
Wildlife conservation managers, researchers, educators, technicians and planners from around the world are making plans to travel to Winnipeg in October 2015.
The Wildlife Society, an international non-profit organization dedicated to wildlife conservation and management, is holding its annual conference in the city from Oct. 17 to 22, thanks to the success of a bid put forward by local organizers, one of whom is the society’s current vice-president, Rick Baydack.
Established in 1937, the society hasn’t held its annual conference in Canada since 2004.
Baydack, who divides his time between Winnipeg and La Salle, is a professor at the University of Manitoba’s Environment, Earth and Resources faculty. He will be the society’s president when the conference is held in Winnipeg, and is excited about the prospect of up to 2,000 of the organization’s approximately 10,000 members attending.
"From a wildlife perspective, it’s the place to be," he said.
The delegates can sign up for pre- and post-conference trips to explore Manitoba’s varied natural habitat. Baydack said the highlight will be a visit to Churchill, likely with a stop in Thompson.
Last fall, he was involved in a wolf and carnivore conference held in Thompson, with 400 people attending. The conference was one step towards Thompson’s goal of becoming a tourist destination for wolf-watchers. Visitors can now see a huge wolf mural and walk through the city on a tour of wolf statues painted by local artists.
"Wolves could become the selling feature," Baydack said.
Other destinations will include Riding Mountain National Park, Lake Winnipeg, Oak Hammock Marsh, a tall grass prairie preserve near Tolstoi, and boreal forest in the Pine Falls area.
"I think we can bring a lot of really interesting things to the table," he said.
He hopes that, by hosting the conference here, local students might become aware of the career potential in wildlife management. Many Canadian research scientists, professors and wildlife managers will retire within the next decade, and young people will have the opportunity to step into their shoes.
Baydack said most of the students graduating from his faculty have no problem finding employment with government departments, private consulting companies and non-profit organizations.
For more information on The Wildlife Society, see www.wildlife.org