The biology department at Southern Arkansas University is delighted to announce that Dr. Katheryn Watson will join the SAU faculty this upcoming spring semester as an Assistant Professor of Biology to lead the growing Wildlife and Conservation Biology program.
Dr. Watson studies the breeding and movement behaviors of birds, with a particular focus on raptorial species, such as hawks, falcons, and owls. “As top-of-the-food-chain predators, raptors can be indicators of ecological change” says Dr. Watson. “I am particularly interested in how predator populations and behaviors are impacted by changes to the food chain and the environment.”
Dr. Watson will teach a variety of courses, including Ornithology, Mammalogy, Wildlife Ecology, Natural Resources Management and Administration, Principles of Biology, and Issues in Conservation. Her experience working with birds and mammals will not only bring unique expertise into the classroom, but also provide new research opportunities for undergraduate students at SAU.
“Dr. Watson brings a unique scientific background to our department that will complement the existing expertise of our faculty,” said Professor Abe Tucker, chair of the department. “Her research questions will provide opportunities for students to work in the field, study ecology where it happens, and learn in the ‘outdoor classroom.’”
In addition, Dr. Watson is interested in avian community dynamics, conservation, and the effects of climate change – interests shared by others in the department. Dr. Jesse Filbrun, an aquatic ecologist and Associate Professor of Biology who teaches Ecology, Ichthyology and Global Environmental Change at SAU, is looking forward to working with Dr. Watson. “Her experience as a terrestrial ecologist will expand opportunities for training students in the wildlife program and help improve the synergy between our Marine Biology and Wildlife and Conservation Biology programs, creating new opportunities for collaboration between students and faculty,” he said.
Jackson Holstead, a senior majoring in Wildlife and Conservation Biology, and president of the SAU Fish and Wildlife Club, is also looking forward to having an avian biologist at SAU. “Many students at SAU have an interest in birds and wildlife ecology, so Dr. Watson should have no trouble finding students to aid in research projects. We are excited to take her classes.” Dr. Watson complimented the students she met so far. “The students seem like an enthusiastic bunch, welcoming me with open arms, and eager to get out into the field and learn new skills. I can’t wait to get to know them personally, work with them in the classroom and lab, and watch them grow into successful wildlife biologists and other professionals.”
Dr. Watson has broad training in wildlife management techniques, such as trapping, surveying, habitat management, GPS tracking, cartography, modeling, and statistics, all skills that she can share with students preparing to start a career in the wildlife and conservation fields. “I am excited to provide students with opportunities to learn the essential field and computational skills needed in today’s wildlife and conservation professions,” said Dr. Watson.
Graduates of SAU Wildlife and Conservation Biology program have accepted jobs with state, federal, private and non-profit groups dedicated to preserving wildlife across the region.
Dr. Watson earned her B.S. in Wildlife Biology at Texas State University, her Master’s in Biology at Eastern Kentucky University, and her Ph.D. in Wildlife, Aquatic, and Wildlands Science and Management at Texas Tech University. Originally from Houston, Dr. Watson and her husband and young son recently moved from Lubbock, Texas, to join the Muleriders.