Limitless opportunities: Auburn alumni fly high in top leadership roles at Ducks Unlimited

Published: August 26, 2019
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From the director of conservation operations to the national director of event fundraising, Ducks Unlimited is colored orange and blue.

With five Auburn University alumni holding leadership positions, the nonprofit wetlands conservation organization has a taste of what it means to be a part of the “Auburn Family.”

One member of the Auburn Family, Nick Wiley, is the chief conservation officer for the organization. “My role is to lead Ducks Unlimited’s highly successful conservation efforts and make sure we continue to protect and conserve wetlands and grasslands that are most critical for supporting waterfowl populations and other wildlife across North America,” he said.

Wiley credits his time as a graduate student at Auburn for fueling his desire to follow a career path pertaining to fish and wildlife conservation.

“I was fortunate to have a great team of faculty advisors while I was at Auburn,” he said. “Their strong and direct interest in me greatly shaped and inspired my development as a conservation professional.”

Wiley encourages students who wish to follow in his footsteps as a conservationist to dream big, set big goals and never compromise on those goals.

Tom Moorman, chief scientist at Ducks Unlimited, feels his time at Auburn earning a wildlife sciences master’s degree rounded out his education and gave him a broader perspective and appreciation of the importance of the organization’s conservation efforts.

“Our specific goals are waterfowl and wetland focused, but I can easily understand and convey the non-waterfowl benefits of our work which are substantial and important,” he stated.

As chief scientist, Moorman’s leadership position ensures Ducks Unlimited conservation programs, public policy and advocacy efforts in the U.S. remain based on the best and most current supporting science on waterfowl ecology and management, wetland ecology and management and related areas of ecological and social science or human dimensions.

Moorman said students should understand that wildlife management and people, values and social science are an important convergence that is foundational to the profession.

Another Auburn alumnus contributing to Ducks Unlimited’s conservation efforts is Craig LeSchack, the director of conservation operations. His role is to work on national and international partnerships and conservation programs, and serve as the staff liaison for volunteer committees and boards.

LeSchack began working with waterfowl conservation when he was a wildlife sciences master’s student at Auburn. He says the waterfowl project he worked on in Guntersville helped prepare him for his career.

“Auburn has a very strong wildlife program and I’ve met a number of wildlife professionals throughout my 25-year career who are Auburn graduates,” he said. “People in the waterfowl conservation community know that if you went to Auburn, you are well prepared for a career in waterfowl conservation.”

Auburn also has a presence in the development department of Ducks Unlimited. Wildlife sciences alumnus Chad Manlove is the managing director of development for the southern region.

“I am responsible for managing a fundraising team of staff and volunteers within the southern region to implement a comprehensive major gift program,” he said. “I also maintain a personal portfolio of high net worth major gift prospects.”

Manlove said that because competition among wildlife-related jobs is fierce, he always encourages students to pursue a master’s degree in their field of interest and consider volunteering at a conservation organization like Ducks Unlimited.

“By earning a master’s degree in wildlife science at Auburn, I had a distinct advantage in securing a permanent job within the non-profit wildlife sector,” he said. “The oral and written communication skills I gained have been essential in maintaining long-term relationships with passionate supporters of Ducks Unlimited.”

Alumni of the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business at Auburn are also at Ducks Unlimited. Business administration alumnus David Schuessler is the national director of event fundraising.

Schuessler did not originally plan to work for the conservation organization, but soon found that it was the perfect fit for him.

“Given Ducks Unlimited’s conservation mission, I never fully considered they would have a place for those with a business background,” he said. “However, once I started volunteering for my local fundraising chapter I quickly learned that the revenue-producing aspect of the organization was exactly like running a business, and I greatly enjoyed applying my education and growing work experience toward my budding passion for raising funds for waterfowl and wetlands.”

Schuessler said the most rewarding part of working for Ducks Unlimited is witnessing the passion that employees and volunteers have for the organization.

“No matter where I travel, the zeal for Ducks Unlimited’s conservation work is the same, and it’s part of what makes our organization so strong,” he said. “I liken it to being a part of the Auburn Family. I can walk up to someone wearing an Auburn shirt and have a 30-minute conversation with them and the same can be said if I see someone from Ducks Unlimited.”

Although each alumnus took different paths to get to where they are now at Ducks Unlimited, they all credit Auburn University for providing the groundwork for their careers.

(Written by Maggie Smith)

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.