Featured Alum 10/13: Rob Kissell, Biology 1986

Rob Kissell

Rob Kissell is the tough guy in the middle with his jacket unzipped!

I am one of a few of the biology majors in the class of 1986 at CBC that did not go into the medical profession. Instead, I pursued my passion of working with wildlife. I chose this profession, at least in part, because of the senior project I conducted – the prevalence of Sarcocystis in white-tailed deer. Through collaboration with people at Memphis State University (now University of Memphis) during my senior project, I became acquainted with the wildlife research in Dr. Michael Kennedy’s lab. CBC introduced me, both directly through research and indirectly through networking, to a direction that has brought me to the point I am today as a wildlife ecologist.

After leaving CBC, I pursued a M.S. degree in Biology at Memphis State University. I studied the ecology of two ecologically similar furbearers – raccoons and Virginia opossums. I found myself thrilled with the discovery of how ecological systems work and conducting the science to answer ecological questions. The applications to management naturally followed.

My interests led me to the intermountain west where I acquired my Ph.D. from Montana State University working on bighorn sheep, mule deer, and feral horses. I experienced many wonderful days observing my study animals at the edge of a 1000’ precipice or on the top of a mountain. I fell in love with the intermountain west and grew in my understanding of how species relate to one another regardless of where they live.

I landed a job as a wildlife biologist for Mississippi and realized after a few years I missed the academic life. I moved back to the intermountain west to work as a research associate for the University of Idaho directing a mule deer project in Hells Canyon. Yes, it is called that for a good reason, but the raw beauty of that canyon is found nowhere else. That allowed me to make the transition back to academia and back to the southeast for the last time.

Today I am at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.  I was promoted to Full Professor in July. As I made the transition from student to professor I have recalled many of the professors I had along the way and how much I learned from them. Two professors from CBC had a greater influence on me than they will ever know or that I can put into words; they were Br. Dominic Dunn and Dr. Stan Eisen. Br. Dominic always encouraged me and showed me what dedication meant. I took a field ecology course one summer with Dr. Eisen and he showed me and the other students how fun ecology could be. These are but a couple of facets of the profession I try to pass along to students in my classes. No one gets where they are in life without support from those around them. I am thankful for all those at CBC who supported me.