Student Spotlight: John Clayton (Kiddo) Campbell

Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) graduate student Kiddo Campbell considers himself lucky. Most graduate students spend their last year of school worried about what’s going to come next. Kiddo already knows. He was hired as a Natural Resource Specialist for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) in August 2018 and has been juggling a full-time job in his chosen field along with his graduate studies and thesis project.

“It’s a lot of work right now, but I love it,” he said. “I was so excited to get hired on at TPWD and I simply love the job. It’s something new every day, and there’s never a dull moment.”

It’s an 8:00-5:00 job, except when it’s not.

“Sometimes we do wildlife surveys from the air, and if that’s the case, we’re flying from 6:00 in the morning until dark, so it can be a 12-hour day. And if we’re doing spotlight surveys, we’ll work into the night, too.”

When he’s not on the clock for TPWD, he’s busy working on his thesis project, which is investigating mule deer translocation methods at Black Gap Wildlife Management Area. His field work for the project is done, and he’s working on writing up his findings. He expects to graduate in December 2019. The experience and knowledge gained from this school project will serve him well in his position at TPWD.

“There’s so much that goes into successful wildlife management. It takes collaboration with private landowners along with working with state, national and even international governments,” he explained. “You have to look at the bigger picture. Mule deer move large distances and the river isn’t a boundary. Everyone who is interested in mule deer management has to work together toward common goals.”

In his job with TPWD, Kiddo works with landowners across eight counties in West Texas.

“It’s all been enjoyable and I feel like I’m learning something new every day,” he said. “Working with waterfowl is something I hadn’t done before and it has been great to learn about playas and sandhill cranes.”

As Kiddo wraps up his last few months at Sul Ross State University, he continues to count his lucky stars that he ended up studying wildlife biology, and especially that he ended up in Alpine.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after high school, and I considered studying marine biology,” he said. “I have an uncle who works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who steered me in the direction of a wildlife degree. He went to Sul Ross, and so did my aunt. So, there’s a family legacy here, too, and I’m so glad I took their advice. I did not have much wildlife experience when I arrived here as an undergraduate student, but thanks to BRI, I’ve had so many opportunities to get out there and learn about all the wildlife out here. It’s been an amazing experience, one that led directly to my first full-time job. I feel very fortunate and hope to continue being part of the BRI family and give back to others as much as I can.”