Fall 2009


Stalking the Big Game

Dave Kitchen: Wildlife Coach Extraordinaire

POP QUIZ: In freeze-tolerant toads, what substance is released from the liver to <br />
prevent cell damage?  If you’re an HSU wildlife major, you might know the answer. If you’re on Professor Dave Kitchen’s Wildlife Conclave team, you’ll definitely know it.

And if you’re at the National Wildlife Quiz Bowl and you buzz in with “glycogen,” you were part of the team that walked away with the national title.

As coach and faculty advisor to the Wildlife Conclave, Kitchen has led his students to a string of national victories – six in the last eight years of competition. His office has become so cluttered with plaques and awards that soon he’ll have to rearrange furniture to clear space for them all.

The team earned its most recent victory at the 2008 National Wildlife Quiz Bowl in Miami. As is often the case, it wasn’t a matter of merely winning. They trounced the competition, which included schools like Purdue and Texas Tech.

Professor Dave Kitchen leads students through a practice quiz bowl, complete with red-button buzzers. The trophy case is spilling over into his office, since Kitchen has led HSU to six national victories in the last eight years.

Training is intense. It begins in Wildlife 480, an elective course open to students of any major. Typically around 40 students enroll, but only half end up going to the bowl. Kitchen makes sure the subject matter is close to what working wildlife professionals encounter in the field.

Students are routinely quizzed on expected subjects: wildlife policy, biology, ornithology and herpetology. But questions about chemistry, math and statistics are thrown in to keep students on their toes.

“New students are overwhelmed by the density of the subject matter, but the older students will immediately mentor them,” Kitchen says.

What really sets the HSU team apart is rigorous preparation. They meet six to nine hours a week outside class and cram facts as they prepare for the competition. “Dave really gets us ready. He doesn’t just show us a skull and that’s it. He helps us learn why it’s that skull, what its unique features are,” says student Leslie Tucci.

To achieve that level of readiness, Kitchen, who has coached both cheerleading and basketball, pulls out all the stops. “My little tricks: I’ve been doing this long enough that I know all the faculty at the other universities. So I know what styles they’re going to write. It’s what any coach would do,” says Kitchen.

The conclave team is gearing up for the 2009 bowl in Monterey this fall, and it’s a safe bet that trip will include field trips to get the team shaped up. “Last year at the Miami conference, we went to the Everglades. We didn’t need a guide, because we were our own guides. We had somebody who knew birds, somebody who knew reptiles and we went out and caught baby alligators all night long,” Kitchen says.

Student Dave Spangenburg, who has spent three semesters with the conclave, says simply: “He’s so much fun, we don’t want him to retire.”