Donna Work, Texas A&M Forest Service Biologist IV, receives the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence for Public Service in Forestry. Work stands between Texas A&M Vice Chancellor Dr. Jeffrey Savell (left) and Texas A&M Forest Service Director Al Davis (right).
COLLEGE STATION, Texas— Donna Work, Texas A&M Forest Service Biologist IV, can most likely be found beneath the green canopy of pine trees, climbing more than 50 feet to reach the burrowed nests of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker— sometimes in the dead of night
Work’s dedication to the conservation of Texas’ natural resources and the red-cockaded woodpecker species is what has made her an invaluable member of Texas A&M Forest Service and to the state of Texas.
With 33 years of service with Texas A&M Forest Service and decades of leadership in red-cockaded woodpecker conservation efforts in East Texas, Work was awarded the Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence for her public service in forestry during the Texas A&M AgriLife Connect event Thursday, January 11, in College Station, Texas.
Established in 1980, this awards program recognizes the commitment and outstanding contributions of faculty, staff and students across Texas A&M AgriLife. The awards were presented by Texas A&M University Vice Chancellor Dr. Jeffrey Savell.
Work began her career with the agency in 1990 in the Forest Pest Management unit, working to address forest health concerns facing Southern forests which included collecting data to help predict and manage the Southern Pine Beetle, the most devastating insect pest to southern yellow pines.
As Work transitioned through the agency, she began to enhance the Water Resources and Forest Stewardship Programs to promote conservation practices that protect soil and water, increase biodiversity and enhance forest health and productivity. At the heart of the success of these programs was Work’s efforts to build relationships with private landowners, loggers and other forestry entities to provide site visits, educational workshops and technical assistance in forest management.
“She [Work] has championed conservation education her entire career,” said Burl Carraway, U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station Program Manager. “Her commitment to detail, customer service and self-insistence on performing at an extremely high level ensured that these workshops, originally developed in 1994, are still a success today.”
Work’s time as a Texas A&M Forest Service biologist has resulted in successful impacts on wildlife and forest sustainability in East Texas and beyond as she has shared her expertise and enthusiasm for wildlife biology with thousands across the state and Southern U.S. In addition to her hands-on workshop and training sessions, Work also publishes quarterly outreach newsletters and has co-authored numerous agency-applied research publications.
Most publicly notable of Work’s accomplishments are her efforts in managing the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker program in East Texas. This program is conducted to ensure the endangered woodpecker population has a sustainable habitat in which to repopulate. Through her woodpecker translocation efforts, Work has successfully introduced breeding pairs to restored habitats, gaining national recognition.
Since 1999, Work has been involved with the red-cockaded woodpecker Safe Harbor Program. This program, nationally directed by the Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Interior, seeks to encourage the conservation of endangered and threatened species on private lands. Through her involvement in the program, Work makes routine visits with the general public, private landowners and land managers to educate them on the program, survey land for the presence of red-cockaded woodpeckers and create Safe Harbor Cooperative Agreements for landowners.
“Her expertise in the lifecycle and needs of wildlife species of concern has ensured that Texas’ state forests are managed to maintain and enhance critical habitat, in particular, the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker,” said Gretchen Riley, Texas A&M Forest Service Forest Systems Department Head.
In addition to her regular duties as a biologist, Work also serves as the coordinator for the Texas Forest Legacy program, a voluntary cooperative effort between the USDA Forest Service and the State of Texas that keeps working forests sustained while protecting ecologically important forests threatened by conservation to non-forest uses through the development of conservation easements.
Work has been previously honored with numerous awards for her dedication to natural resource conservation including Forestry Educator of the Year for 2012 from the Texas Forestry Association and D.A. “Andy” Anderson I & E Award for 2004 from Texas A&M Forest Service.
Work was also recognized in 2023 for her involvement in the Virtually Wild! Texas program, which received the Director’s Award for Team Effort from Texas A&M Forest Service. This program provided accessible forest conservation and natural resource education for classrooms and students learning from home and in healthcare facilities with virtual field trips.
Currently, Work represents the agency on several wildlife-oriented committees and task forces, including the Louisiana Pine Snake Recovery Task Force, Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Translocation Team and East Texas Black Bear Task Force.
See the list of all Vice Chancellor’s Awards in Excellence recipients for 2023 here.
Editor’s Note: Photo ID—Donna Work, Texas A&M Forest Service Biologist IV, receives the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence for Public Service in Forestry. Work stands between Texas A&M Vice Chancellor Dr. Jeffrey Savell (left) and Texas A&M Forest Service Director Al Davis (right).