Tonya Kieffer earned her Bachelors of Science in Biology in 2006 from The University of Findlay. She credits Gwynne Rife, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences, as a driving force in her current career.
“Dr. Gwynne Rife was super instrumental in my career. She secured the opportunity for UF students to visit the Baja Mexico area, where UF was the first U.S. university to perform research, in conjunction with the university in Mexico, on the world’s largest living mammal, the blue whale. I would have never had the opportunity if it wasn’t for her, and it made me strive, even further, to become a better research biologist.”
Tell us about your career
I currently work for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) as a wildlife recreation specialist/biologist. My job is unique, in that I also co-host an outdoor show, KSL Outdoors, as a representative of the UDWR. I’m the only person in the state with the position to do so.
My other UDWR responsibilities encompass working in the outreach section and running programs in the central part of the state, known as the community fishing program, and the walk in access program (gain private land agreements for public access to hunt and fish). My responsibility is to educate and introduce people to Utah’s wildlife and encourage them to become stewards of the outdoors.
What made you choose UF over other schools?
It’s small town feel and the ability to get to know your professor one-on-one made UF the best place for me. To this day, I’m still friends with my professors, post college. The amount and variety of clubs on campus also made the decision to attend very easy. I was a huge part of the wilderness club and joined Phi Sigma Sigma sorority my sophomore year and currently reside in Utah with one of my UF “sisters”.
What is your most memorable moment so far in your career?
Seeing 15 blue whales in Mexico and holding a huge wild baby bear cub out of it’s den. Very different experiences, but very tied for the best moments in my career.