Student Spotlight: Kelley Wood
She didn’t realize it at the time, but Kelley Wood has been charting her career course since she was a little girl. She grew up on a farm outside of Victoria, Texas and raised livestock through her school’s 4-H program. Her family also participated in a wildlife habitat evaluation project through the 4-H program.
“From a very young age, I started learning about the different wildlife species we could see at our farm,” said Kelley. “We learned that we could do different things on our place that might improve habitat for wildlife ranging from deer to songbirds.”
She also developed a fascination for bugs and insects.
“I was never the kid who didn’t want to pick them up,” she said. “I’ve always been curious about grasshoppers, butterflies and any sort of interesting bug.”
She knew she wanted a career involving wildlife, and it all came together for her at a Texas Wildlife Conservation Camp run by the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society.
“That’s when I knew for sure what I wanted to study. I loved the Texas Wildlife Conservation Camp experience. I’ve been every year since 2012, first as a camper, and more recently as a college mentor and presenter.”
She earned her bachelor’s degree in Range and Wildlife Management at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. She also became the first student there to earn a certification in digital wildlife photography. One of her professors, Dr. April Torres-Conkey, became a mentor, who encouraged her to continue her educational journey. She was accepted at the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) at Sul Ross State University in 2019.
Her research project is evaluating the value of outdoor industries in the Trans-Pecos region by estimating the economics of the agriculture, hunting, and tourism industries. She is analyzing travel statistics, visitation data for parks and wildlife management areas, and is also examining agriculture census data and estimated value of wildlife species.
In her spare time, she’s using her newly honed photography skills to explore the world around her, which is so much different from the South Texas landscape she calls home.
“I was hiking on Hancock Hill recently and found this really cool millipede, so of course I took a picture. There’s so many different insects out here than I see back at home.”
The macro lens on her camera also allows her to see the beauty that others might miss.
“The first time I saw a tumbleweed that wasn’t in a cartoon was out here, and I didn’t realize how interesting they are. They change colors and before they dry completely up, they have the little flowers that you don’t really notice unless you look at them very closely.”
She’s also documenting a couple of Texas horned lizards that live in her back yard.
“I love using the photography skills I’ve learned to spread awareness of conservation. I’ve been so inspired by what I’ve learned so far.”
Kelley has her sights set on a PhD after she completes her master’s degree. She hopes to follow in the footsteps of her professors at BRI and her mentor at Texas A&M-Kingsville to share her love of wildlife and conservation through education.