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Undergraduate Student

Claire Helmke

Senior, Wildlife Science


The house I grew up in had a big backyard with a creek flowing through it. Every afternoon when I was little, I played among the bushes, went searching up and down the creek bed, and danced under the trees when it rained. One of my most favorite memories was when a nest of turtles hatched in our backyard in the middle of hurricane Floyd and I got to watch. It wasn’t until I read Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain that I really fell in love with the outdoors. Since then I go camping, hiking, kayaking, and climbing every chance I get. I relish hours in the woods with my older sister, an environmental educator, asking questions about everything around me. My mother and I would spend afternoons standing on our back deck watching eagles, osprey, and blue heron, and at night there would be a lullaby of foxes and swans.

When I first came to Virginia Tech, I didn’t have much direction other than knowing I wanted to do something with the environment. Through a class assignment, I discovered the wildlife science major and by sophomore year in Dr. Karpanty’s Principles of Fish and Wildlife course, I knew I had found my new home. I have been enthralled by all my major classes, amazed at how much there is to learn and always excited to learn it.

Beginning in the spring semester of my junior year, I got involved with the Virginia Appalachian Coyote Study, volunteering on weekends to collect scat samples, trap small mammals, and run deer distance sampling. I continued this work through the summer and will do so throughout my senior year, as well as helping in the field and running GIS analysis to better understand coyote home range and territories for the project. I will also be volunteering to work in the new Black Bear Research Center and I’m excited for all the opportunities.

Honors and Awards

  • Dwight Chamberlain Wildlife Fellowship Scholarship, 2012-13
  • Burd Sheldon McGinnes Scholarship, 2011-12
  • William O. Ross Scholarship, 2011
  • Dean’s List (3 years)

25th Anniversary

Celebrating 25 Years

    1992 through 2017, 25 years

Join us Sept. 15-16 to visit campus and reconnect with alumni, faculty, staff, and friends.

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    CNRE Newsmagazine Spring 2017


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