The Terrestrial Wildlife Ecology Laboratory (TWEL) gathered to celebrate 20 Years of TWEL on September 30, 2023. The gathering brought together Ohio Division of Wildlife Staff and SENR/TWEL faculty staff and students to celebrate the occasion.
Formed in 2003, TWEL, taking after an older sister program, the Aquatic Ecology Laboratory (AEL) at The Ohio State University was conceived to “implement formal agreements between Ohio State and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife to plan, support, and conduct research projects to focus on aquatic (AEL) and terrestrial (TWEL) wildlife in Ohio with support coming primarily from Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration (Dingell-Johnson (DJ) Act for Fisheries, Pittman Robertson (PR) Act for Wildlife),” said Robert Gates, associate professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR) and one of the faculty who helped to lay the groundwork for creating TWEL. SENR is in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and has had academic programs in Fisheries and Wildlife since its inception in 1968 with newer faculty and staff brought on in the late 1990s through early 2000s to help regrow these programs in the school with more recent faculty and staff joining in the past several years.
TWEL was formed out of the recognition of a wildlife research and education gap left by closure of the Ohio Coop Unit in 1998 described by Gates as,
“The concept behind TWEL (also AEL and OBCP) can be traced back to the Ohio Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. The nationwide Cooperative Unit program was first conceived by Ding Darling in 1934 to form a partnership between Iowa’s state wildlife agency and the land grant college of agriculture to conduct research and provide education about wildlife conservation. After opening the First Coop Unit at Iowa State, Darling and others successfully lobbied for funding of federal-state-university-industry funded Coop Units in 9 states, one of which was Ohio. The Ohio Unit opened at Ohio State University in Columbus in 1937. The Ohio Coop Unit was affiliated with the OSU Department of Zoology (now EEOB) throughout most or all its history until the Unit was closed in 1998. The Aquatic Ecology Lab in EEOB was formed before the Ohio Coop Unit closed, but there was no comparable program for terrestrial wildlife at OSU until 2003 when TWEL was formed.”
In February 2004 an Open House was held to formally commemorate the formation of TWEL in the School of Environment and Natural Resources.
When asked about the longevity of TWEL, Gates notes two visions that have played a role in sustaining the lab for 20 years – a sense of identity and connections to support wildlife science and management.
“Founded on principles embodied in the Land-Grant Mission, TWEL was created with both an inward-facing vision (TWEL writ-small) that that lends identity to the Wildlife program within SENR and CFAES as well as facilitating annual funding agreements with ODNR Division of Wildlife. There is also TWEL “writ-large” which acknowledges that SENR faculty, staff and students connect with external professional and lay communities, funding sources, natural resource agencies, colleagues, cooperators, and stakeholders that either benefit from or support our academic wildlife enterprise. While TWEL “writ-small” focuses on the university partnership with ODNR-Wildlife, TWEL “writ-large” captures the entire breadth and depth of what we do to support wildlife science and management through generating and disseminating knowledge, educating, and training current and future professionals, and informing the public about wildlife conservation."
TWEL faculty and staff are leading the way in important areas, addressing critical needs in wildlife science and educating the next generation of terrestrial wildlife scientists, managers and the public in ecological modeling of wildlife population and landscape dynamics, contributing to enhanced knowledge for conservation management, urban wildlife ecology and management and the understanding of human-wildlife interactions and conflict management, and the application of quantitative analyses in wildlife science and management.