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History of the Department

Founded in 1888 as Las Cruces College, the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts was established as a land-grant college in 1889. The college grew steadily during the next 72 years, and in 1960 the constitution of New Mexico was amended, formally changing its name to New Mexico State University.

Teaching programs at NMSU were organized into 6 colleges and the Graduate School. The College of Agriculture and Home Economics consisted of 8 academic departments, including what was then the Department of Fishery and Wildlife Sciences. The study of Wildlife Science at NMSU became official in 1959 when Dr. John E. Wood was hired in the Department of Animal, Range and Wildlife Sciences. In 1961, after being housed for two years in a building that no longer exists, the Department was relocated in Neale Hall, occupying 5 offices and 2 teaching labs. Faculty of four increased by one when Dr. James R. Dixon started that same year, and Fishery Science was added to the program. The Freshman class of 1961 included 13 new fishery and wildlife students. Subsequent growth led to the formal establishment of the Department of Fishery and Wildlife Sciences in 1975. Additional positions were added in 1976 and 1977, a replacement and a wildlife extension position in 1978, and two research associates in 1979.

In the Fall of 1981, the Department moved into its present facilities in newly-constructed Knox Hall. Since 1984, the Department has had six teaching and research faculty. In 1989, the New Mexico Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit was established within the Department as a cooperative unit of the Department of Interior. The Unit houses three full-time researchers and adjunct faculty plus a variable number of research specialists. It exists to conduct research of interest to cooperators, provide graduate educational opportunities, and provide technical assistance to cooperators. Additionally, there are two extension faculty associated with the Department.

In 2008, the Department changed its name from Fishery and Wildlife Sciences to Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology and the Major of Conservation Ecology was added to the curriculum. Approximately 15% of students graduating with a B.S. degree in fisheries and wildlife have completed M.S. degrees, and 5% have completed the Ph.D. Well over 70% of our graduates are working in the natural resources profession.