The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) has named Matt Kauffman, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research scientist at the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and an assistant professor in the University of Wyoming’s Department of Zoology and Physiology, the recipient of the foundation’s Conservationist of the Year Award for 2018.
Kauffman is the lead scientist of the UW-based Wyoming Migration Initiative, a Wyoming Game and Fish Department-supported collaborative of biologists, mapmakers, artists, photographers and writers working to research ungulate migration and share that information with the public.
“Perhaps no one has done more to further the scientific understanding of elk migration than Dr. Kauffman,” says Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “His past and continuing research shines a light on landscape-wide wildlife movements not previously captured or recorded in such a comprehensive manner.”
Kauffman will receive the award at the RMEF Elk Camp July 11.
RMEF’s support of the Wyoming Migration Initiative dates back to 2006 when it worked with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to provide funding for research that eventually led to the initiative.
Since 2013, RMEF provided more than $243,000 on 14 projects while formally working alongside Kauffman. Key accomplishments include publications such as “Wild Migrations: Atlas of Wyoming’s Ungulates”; migration assessment of elk herds in various parts of Wyoming; and other tools that allow researchers and the public to view and understand migrations.
“The 2018 Secretarial Order 3362 focusing on conservation and big-game migration corridors can, in no small part, be traced back to the Wyoming Migration Initiative and its groundbreaking work,” Henning says. “Wyoming is known to have the best migration data of any of the Western states.”
The federal secretarial order on migration corridors also called on the USGS to assist other Western states in mapping migration corridors of elk, mule deer and pronghorn. In response, the federal science agency has created a corridor mapping team, which Kauffman leads, to provide mapping and other technical support to participating states.
Kauffman grew up in rural southern Oregon, the son of a horse logger and an elementary school teacher. He has an undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Oregon and a Ph.D. in environmental studies from the University of California-Santa Cruz.
Founded 35 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of nearly 235,000, RMEF has conserved more than 7.4 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access; fund and advocate for science-based resource management; and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage.