New role for DNR employee strengthens university connection

DNR Wildlife Chief Russ Mason's new role aims to further the DNR’s mission with universities and other key partners.

Media Contacts: Ed Golder (DNR), 517-284-5815; Eileen Gianiodis (MSU), 517-884-7087

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today announced that Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason is taking on a new position as the DNR’s Michigan State University (MSU) and external partnerships liaison, effective Sept. 22. It is a position geared toward advancing wildlife and natural resources management on behalf of the DNR through expanded partnerships, greater strategic collaboration and enhanced focus on research-based wildlife priorities and outcomes.

Mason will work to broaden the conversation and strengthen the partnerships around fighting wildlife diseases. In this new position, he will:

  • Ensure ongoing and positive relationships with existing university and institutional partners by identifying and supporting collaborative research opportunities, carrying the department’s mission to current and potential new partners, and regularly informing the DNR about new avenues for accomplishing DNR goals.
  • Engage state, regional and national conservation agencies to discuss opportunities to work with universities and the DNR on shared wildlife management and research goals.
  • Oversee the joint DNR-MSU chronic wasting disease (CWD) research collaborative, an initiative aimed at developing innovative research, education and outreach projects to address the most important issues around wildlife disease in Michigan – especially CWD in deer.

Mason will be based at MSU as an Executive in Residence within the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) but will remain a DNR employee.

“I want to commend Russ for his 11 years of service to Michigan’s natural resources and the people of our state as chief of the DNR Wildlife Division,” said DNR Director Dan Eichinger. “As Russ enters this next phase of his career, his wealth of experience in wildlife management and his extensive academic background will strengthen the bonds between MSU and the DNR, ensuring that our agency’s work continues to be grounded in sound science. Thanks to Russ for continuing to do this important work for our state.”

Ron Hendrick, CANR dean, said that Mason’s experience will help continue to bridge a connection between the DNR and MSU.

“We look forward to interacting with Russ,” Hendrick said. “His expertise speaks for itself and his connections with our own Department of Fisheries and Wildlife are well-established. I think he can stretch those across our college.”

Mason, an avid outdoorsman, has served as the DNR’s wildlife chief since joining the department in August 2008. His leadership during a critical time for the state’s wildlife landscape – Michigan’s first confirmed case of CWD in a free-ranging, white-tailed deer occurred in 2015 – was instrumental for the department. Mason helped guide the department toward extensive deer testing and a drive for solutions to address the disease, including a national CWD symposium in October 2017 that brought together experts from wildlife management, academia and other key fields.

His decades-long professional career includes time as chief of Nevada Department of Wildlife’s Game Division; science advisor to the national Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in Washington, D.C., focusing on issues including invasive species, wildlife health and climate change; manager and supervisory biologist for the Mammals Research Program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Colorado, where he administered a national research program; and field station leader and supervisory research psychologist USDA’s Predation Ecology and Behavioral Applications Research Center at Utah State University.

He also has an extensive record of appointments to state and national advisory committees, boards and task forces on topics including wind energy, migratory birds, accessible hunting opportunities, pheasant population restoration, sustainable biofuels and cooperative conservation.

With a special interest in preparing future generations of wildlife professionals, Mason has held faculty appointments in fisheries and wildlife, biology, psychology, and environment and resource sciences, and taught several courses at MSU, University of Pennsylvania, Utah State University, University of Wyoming and University of Nevada.

“I’m genuinely excited to have the opportunity to close the gap between research and management application,” Mason said. “The gap exists both because researchers sometimes misunderstand management and vice-versa. In many ways, this opportunity is a first across the nation – one more example of Michigan’s leadership in the conservation community.”

Mason has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from DePauw University, a master’s degree in animal learning from Clark University and a Ph.D. in chemical ecology, also from Clark University. His training also included stints in physical chemistry at Brown University, and a post-doctoral fellowship in chemical ecology at the Monell Chemical Senses Center at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Shannon Hanna, DNR natural resources deputy, will serve as interim chief of the department’s Wildlife Division.

“The missions of the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and the DNR align in working to sustain Michigan’s wonderful natural environment,” said Scott Loveridge, chair of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. “By working closely together through the 25-year old Partnership for Ecosystem Services and Management along with other activities, both DNR and MSU have produced conservation work that is recognized throughout the U.S. We look forward to continued work with Dr. Mason to meet the challenges of the next years.”


The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural resources for current and future generations. Learn more at

In the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, students use science, technology, engineering, mathematics, business and creative design to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems related to food, health and the environment. Explore the college at

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