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Ducks Unlimited Lists ESF among 'Sweet 16' Collegiate Chapters

Honor is first for a school in Northeast

Members of the ESF chapter of Ducks Unlimited repaired and installed nesting boxes for wood ducks this winter at the ESF Newcomb Campus.

The ESF chapter of Ducks Unlimited (DU) has been named one of the national conservation organization's "Sweet 16" collegiate chapters, the first time a university in the Northeast has been on the list.

Representatives of the ESF group will be honored at the state DU convention in March and at the national convention at the end of May.

"It's a huge accomplishment. They came in at No. 8 and it's only the chapter's third year in existence," said Dr. Michael Schummer, an ESF scientist-in-residence and Roosevelt Wild Life Station waterfowl ecologist who serves as adviser to the chapter. "ESF is the only school north of Virginia that has ever made the list. It's a huge testimony to the quality of our students."

Collegiate chapters were chosen for the Sweet 16 based on the amount of money they raised for conservation purposes through events and major gifts earmarked for chapter credit.

Chapter President Will Chamberlin, a sophomore majoring in natural resources management, said news of the honor was a cause for celebration among the roughly 35 active club members. Schools on the Sweet 16 list are typically large universities in the South, Southeast and Midwest. "They are much bigger schools in places where there is a lot of waterfowl hunting," Chamberlin said. "But what we have here is a lot of conservation and waterfowl research, so there's a big connection with DU."

Schummer said the ESF chapter raised nearly $50,000 for DU, which uses the funds to conserve wetland habitat, support clean water initiatives and enhance recreation opportunities. DU has the power to leverage donations at a ratio of 8:1, so every $250 the organization receives can conserve an acre of wetland. "So, in 2017 alone, the ESF chapter has helped conserve about 200 acres," Schummer said. "DU was founded by passionate waterfowl hunters concerned with wetland habitat loss, but there is so much more to DU than waterfowl hunting."

The chapter does more than raise funds. This month, some of the members headed to the ESF Newcomb campus to repair and install nesting boxes for wood ducks.

The ESF chapter does a small fund-raising event in conjunction with the fall Woodsmen's Team meet and sponsors a larger, social "Conservation Night Out" in the spring. Schummer said the spring event, especially, is a resume-builder for the students and a chance for them to showcase their professional skills at an event that draws DU members from around Central New York and beyond.

"You can be really smart and you can have all the science in the world but if you don't have any money, you're not going anywhere," he said. "This teaches our students important lessons in raising money for science-based conservation through philanthropy."

Chamberlin said he is continually amazed at the connections between the college and the conservation organization. He said he learns something almost daily about the web of links among students, club members, conservation professionals and researchers. "It's a great cycle with a lot of moving parts and everyone is focused on conservation," he said.

The "Sweet 16" will be featured in DU's annual magazine this summer.