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Clint Moore headshot

Clint Moore: Counting on natural resources

Clint Moore knew he liked forestry and math. As an undergraduate student, he wasn’t sure how that might add up to a career.

“I had this image that someone would pay me to sit in a fire tower on a mountaintop and work on math problems,” said Moore (BSFR ’82, PHD ’02), who recently retired as leader of the Georgia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit. “That’s what I wanted to do, but I never found something worded explicitly that way.”

Commonly called the Co-op Unit, it’s a partnership between Warnell, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Geological Survey to conduct research and provide graduate-level education in the natural resources. Students who go through the Georgia Co-op Unit’s program get experience in addressing contemporary problems in fish and wildlife management. Students in Moore’s lab often focus on quantitative approaches, such as statistics and modeling. Many of the projects taken on by his lab involve creating management plans that follow these models.

This emphasis on the mathematical side of natural resources got a boost from Moore. It’s also evidence that Moore was able to carve out a career that combined natural resources and solving math puzzles—even if a fire tower wasn’t involved. 

After graduating from Warnell, Moore received a master’s in statistics from North Carolina State University and began working for the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. There, he used his statistical expertise as a biometrician in the agency’s wildlife research lab. From there, he took a position with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Maryland, starting with bird count data and eventually working on a large project involving waterfowl harvest management.

This was when he began working in decision analysis, and he was reminded of an undergraduate class he took from Jerry Clutter that introduced the idea of optimization, or how you make the most out of limited resources. “I think he talked about the idea of producing baseball bats,” said Moore. “But I carried that with me to the federal government, where we started talking about how to make the best decisions we can about harvesting waterfowl.”

But even with his advanced statistical knowledge, Moore lacked one element of training: A doctorate degree. So, like many aspiring Ph.D. students after him, Moore left his job and came to the Georgia Co-op Unit for his second graduate degree. He studied under Mike Conroy and graduated in 2002.

As luck would have it, the regional field station for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center was also in Athens—right down the hall in Warnell’s Building 3, to be exact—and when Moore graduated with his Ph.D. he was hired as a decision analyst and adaptive management specialist. After a decade pursuing research projects there, he moved to assistant unit leader at the Georgia Co-op Unit when Conroy retired.

“In the field station, they said, ‘go find projects to work on.’ They let me construct that research program,” said Moore. “So, when I came here to the Co-op, I had those connections made. Some of the projects continued from ones I started at Patuxent, but then we started new things as well.”

It was a transition from conducting research as a solo scientist to guiding graduate students to their own projects, but Moore said it’s been a rewarding challenge. He’s also enjoyed seeing projects continue to thrive years after completion.

For example, a decision model involving native prairie grasses in the Great Plains is still in use today. “That turned out to be one of the most rewarding projects I ever worked on, because it’s still in use today,” he said. “It exemplifies how you can use formal decision-making to efficiently carry out management actions to try and remove invasive species.”

Gopher tortoises, sea turtles, black bears, painted buntings, alligators and more—Moore’s career includes a variety of problems and solutions, connected by a common quantitative thread. He’s been able to mix mathematics and natural resources all along.

“It’s been an interesting career, just going from a statistical support scientist to graduate education and teaching,” he said. “It’s a really fulfilling thing for me.”

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