Ecologist and longtime conservation leader Dr. Jon Ambrose has been named chief of the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division’s Nongame Conservation Section.
Ambrose, a 27-year employee of the Department of Natural Resources agency, fills the position left vacant by Mike Harris, who recently began work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Ambrose had served as the Nongame Conservation Section’s first and only assistant chief since 2004.
Wildlife Resources Division Director Dan Forster emphasized that record in his recent announcement.
“Jon’s strong education and experience, coupled with his commitment and familiarity with the section and division missions, will serve him and our efforts well leading this critical unit forward,” Forster said.
As chief, Ambrose supervises an agency charged with conserving Georgia’s rare and other nongame wildlife – those not legally fished for or hunted – plus native plants and the natural habitats these species need. The Nongame Conservation Section conducts research, surveys, education, land acquisition and habitat management, often partnering with other agencies and organizations.
About 95 percent of Georgia wildlife species are nongame, from bald eagles to big-eared bats. In 2011, wildlife-watching focused largely on nongame involved an estimated 2.4 million people and more than $1.8 billion in expenditures statewide. Yet, Nongame Conservation receives no state appropriations for its work, depending instead on grants, contributions and fundraisers, such as sales and renewals of the eagle and hummingbird license plates.
Ambrose said Harris helped lay a solid foundation for the section. His goal is to build on it.
“There’s a tremendous amount to do,” he said. “But we have an excellent staff and great conservation partners. We’ll continue down that road, taking a science-based strategic approach to address high-priority nongame conservation issues.”
The effort will be guided by Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan, a comprehensive conservation strategy that is being revised this year. Ambrose is leading the revision and implementation of the plan.
Ambrose began his career as an ecologist with DNR in 1986, the same year he completed a doctorate in ecology at the University of Georgia. He later managed the Georgia Natural Heritage Program, coordinating biological research, conservation, surveys and a vital database that now tracks nearly 1,200 rare plant and animal species and more than 180 natural communities in the state.
As assistant chief, he helped oversee Nongame Conservation Section projects statewide. Ambrose also served as State Wildlife Action Plan coordinator, guiding the creation with partner organizations of Georgia’s first plan in the early 2000s.
He is a 2011 graduate of the National Conservation Leadership Institute and serves as chair of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Wildlife Action Plans Committee. Ambrose co-authored The Natural Communities of Georgia, published by University of Georgia Press in 2013.
He and his wife, Dana, live in Watkinsville. They have an adult daughter and son.
For more on the Wildlife Resources Division, visit www.georgiawildlife.com.