MU partners with U.S. Tiger University Consortium

3 weeks 2 days 20 hours ago Saturday, September 23 2017 Sep 23, 2017 Saturday, September 23, 2017 3:16:00 PM CDT September 23, 2017 in Top Stories
By: Brianna Stubler, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA – MU, Auburn, Clemson and LSU are announcing their partnership in the U.S. Tiger University Consortium Saturday.

Clemson president James P. Clements is the founder of the consortium, which has the primary goal of supporting the Global Tiger Forum’s mission of doubling wild tiger populations by 2022.

This coalition is very new, so it’s still in the early stages of planning. The schools know what they want to achieve, but the details on how they will work towards their goal are yet to be determined. The provosts have been discussing their collaboration and what they will each do at their respective schools in order to contribute to the solution.

Although this consortium is just beginning, the idea is not new – one MU student group has paved the way for the coalition that was formally announced Saturday before the game.

The group is called Mizzou Tigers for Tigers, and is led by current president Shannon McKinley and Dr. Matt Gompper, a professor in the College of Natural Resources. He leads the group as the professor faculty advisor, drawing from his research experience.

Gompper has researched Tigers in India and Nepal to help understand how to better conserve wild tiger populations, including collecting data on tiger habitat use and getting specific field ecology information.

In Nepal, he has worked to better understand how tigers use different kinds of habitats, and in India, the likelihood of pathogens moving from domestic animals, like dogs, to carnivores like tigers.

Gompper’s work shows the long history of MU tiger research, and the national effect it has had. In 1999, Mizzou Tigers for Tigers started as the first student group of its kind, inspiring other schools to start tiger student groups of their own. In 2007, they were recognized nationally by the World Wildlife Fund.

“The success of Mizzou Tigers for Tigers has resulted in Tigers for Tigers at other institutions,” Gompper said. “There are about 17 programs now, with varying degrees of involvement. Clemson’s is quite successful, so certainty the administration at Clemson is aware of their program’s success, and that had a role in forming the consortium.”

Student chapters occasionally meet and share goals but usually work independently. Though MU’s student group primarily focuses on research, they inform the public and increase awareness when the opportunity is available. Dr. Gompper thinks this will continue.

He also thinks Mizzou Tigers for Tigers has and will continue to help MU internationally.

“The goals are twofold—to enhance international stature by becoming involved in research efforts in Asia, while it is simultaneously designed to give students an understanding of what it requires to run a small but globally focused organization,” Gompper said.

The student group raises money and directs it towards field tiger conservation efforts, Gompper said, as well as indirectly facilitated research.

They have also facilitated interest in tigers, which Gompper said led to today’s consortium.

Both have some overlap; they have similar goals and have both donated to the World Wildlife Fund. But they have their differences too. The school organizations are primarily concerned with research, while the consortium is focusing on advocacy and education. The schools involved in the consortium all have a similar goal – to train the next generation of researchers and leaders, Gompper said. Yet awareness of the threats to tigers was raised by the student groups, so the coalition today may not have happened without them.

It is still too early to predict what the consortium will look like, Gompper said. Right now, each school plans to take students, but their background and training will depend on the resources available at each of the institutions.

“At this stage, we’re just meeting with provosts and planning,” Gompper said. “Auburn is here to discuss programs, moving forward in positive direction, and what the future will look like, but it is very early. There’s no dollar amount set yet because it’s still early on in setting the agenda.

He is unconcerned with the dollar amount and prefers to focus on training students.

“Here at MU, our strength lies in research and education, so if we can tap into those strengths by tapping into our resources here on campus, we will be able to continue to make an impact,” Gompper said.

Because education is a strong point here, Gompper wants to see an exchange program between MU and countries conducting tiger research. He would like to have those students here pursuing graduate degrees involving tiger research, “while simultaneously enhancing the opportunity for MU students to go research in Asia. It would be wonderful to have them and to share the wealth of knowledge we have.”

For now, the schools comprising the “U.S. Tiger University Consortium” all share the same mascot in common, and are using this commonality to unite and raise awareness.

“The shared mascot is what unifies us,” Gompper said. He sees football as a great platform to use in their advocacy.

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