CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — West Texas A&M University announced that the university recently appointed its “expert on all creatures large and small” in the region as its new James A. “Buddy” Davidson Professor of Wildlife Biology.
Officials detailed that Dr. Ray Matlack, who joined WT in 2002, was announced by Dr. Jason Yarbrough, head of both the Department of Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Department of Chemistry and Physics, as the new professor.
The Davidson professorship, officials noted, was established in 2012 by the James A. “Buddy” Davidson Charitable Foundation as part of WT’s Share the Pride campaign. The professorship highlights and supports the hands-on teaching of a faculty member who also uses the environment to create impactful learning experiences.
“Dr. Matlack is well-known as one of the most enthusiastic, student-centered faculty members at WT, and his dedication to the field of wildlife biology and to his students is exemplary,” Yarbrough said. “His belief in the importance of hands-on fieldwork consistently provides a valuable, dynamic experience for his students.
Matlack, according to officials, often takes graduate and undergraduate students on camping trips, including to the Texas Gulf Coast, the Rocky Mountains in New Mexico and Colorado and southeast Arizona, to learn more about the birds, bats and mammals that inhabit the wild.
“A degree in wildlife biology requires many hours of work in the classroom and laboratory, but this alone is insufficient. Students must also develop field skills including species identification of reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals; camping; vehicle and field safety; and various research and management techniques,” Matlack said. “I am honored to be named the Davidson Professor of Wildlife Biology, and I am grateful that this support will help tell the story of the wildlife and wild places we study in a way that will improve my teaching and be used in public outreach and education.”
Matlack earned his bachelor’s in wildlife biology and his master’s and Ph.D. in Biology at Kansas State University and went on to teach wildlife conservation, wildlife management, natural history of vertebrates, animal behavior, ornithology, and mammalogy, officials described.
Matlack is also currently working on several research projects including monitoring free-tailed bats using bridge roosts in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, along with the inventory of the mammals throughout the canyon. Officials added that he has published his work in several nature journals including the Western North American Naturalist.
The Davidson Foundation, officials noted, was established in 2002 to honor the late Midland-area oilman and rancher to support West Texas charities and educational initiatives. WT is set to endow nearly 90 professorships which will provide faculty with additional funding for research, travel and more.