Chris Simpson, TWRA Region 3 Wildlife Diversity Coordinator has been named Regional Biologist of the Year. This prestigious award is given to individuals whose achievements exceed expectation and performance of job duties.
Simpson, a Tennessee Tech graduate, holds a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science. He started his career with the agency in 1993, with stream fisheries. He became the regional Wildlife Diversity Survey Manager in 2004 and accepted assignment of his current position in 2010.
Simpson is known for his strong work ethic and supportive role with coworkers. He has worked on numerous projects over the past year including revision and completion of the bat survey portion of the North Cumberlands Forest Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). Simpson was also instrumental in providing a path forward for needed gas pipeline infrastructure improvements in Cumberland County. His work provided long term mitigation for bats and bat habitat on TWRA Wildlife Management Area (WMA) while meeting federal government standards, resulting in a long term conservation benefit on TWRA managed lands.
Simpson was an essential contributor in TWRA’s acquisition of Skinner Mountain WMA in Fentress County. His role will help conserve and protect approximately 14,700 acres of huntable lands. The Skinner Mountain Forest project, a partnership project, was ranked third in the country for the 2019 fiscal year Forest Legacy program, a very significant accomplishment. Simpson co-chaired the Southeastern Bat Diversity Network’s bat blitz, a weeklong event attended by wildlife professionals from across the U.S. This blitz resulted in a comprehensive bat survey of the southern Cumberland Plateau. Furthermore, Simpson served on the organization committee for Cookeville’s Nature Fest and he attends many events educating and presenting information on behalf of the agency. Simpson played a role in the Cumberland County HCP, has worked towards the protection of cave habitat for bats and is heavily involved in endangered bat research, hellbender salamander, green salamander, pine snake and golden eagle research. Simpson is also heavily involved in white-nose syndrome and snake fungal disease research.
One of the challenges Simpson and his colleagues face is growing awareness of the work and needs to protect Tennessee’s wildlife diversity. Simpson would like to see more staff devoted to the vast diversity of the state. Simpson shared, “In the beginning of my career the focus was not on wildlife diseases. With an increase of significant wildlife diseases in the United States, scientific work is more pressing if we want to maintain the amazing diversity of our state.” With over 1,400 species of wildlife (excluding insects), Tennessee is the most diverse inland state in the United States.
Dave McKinney, Chief of Environmental Services with TWRA shared, “Chris is a model, professional biologist always willing to apply his time and talents to wildlife resource conservation and management. The exemplary work Chris has accomplished this year and every year is an example of the above and beyond attitude that he has consistently displayed throughout his career with TWRA.”