2023 Year in Review: Amanda Nicholson, Senior Vice President

It’s time to look back on 2023! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2023 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

During my 22 years at the Center, I’ve been fortunate to work with many wonderful people, some of whom have turned out to be some of my favorite humans. Years ago, I realized that many of my good veterinary friends often attended the annual Wildlife Disease Association (WDA) conference. They’d text me photos of them hanging out at conference social events, and I was always very wishful that I could be there too. At some point, I started joking that some year I was going to attend WDA – not for the conference itself (though it is a very good one!) but just to go and be a “groupie” at the social activities!

This year’s WDA conference was in Athens, Georgia, and I realized that, if there was ever a year to do this, this would be the one. I found myself the cutest little Air B&B guest house that was close to downtown, purchased the add-on social event ticket through WDA, threw my bike on the car, and drove to Georgia.

It was one of the highlights of my year.

Within an hour of arriving, I walked downtown and met up with an old friend — Dr. Dave, our former veterinary director, who departed the Center in 2017. Dave is now working at Parks Canada as a wildlife health specialist.

Later that evening, our friend Mark met up with us after dinner. Mark was the veterinary intern at the Wildlife Center in 2007-2008 and is now the director of the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study – he was having a very busy week since SCWDS was hosting the WDA conference!

The next night, I went to the WDA icebreaker, and ran into people who I hadn’t seen in more than 20 years! Jonathan Sleeman – who was the veterinary director who hired me back in 2001 – was there; he’s currently the director of USGS’s National Wildlife Health Center.

And I think I startled an old friend, Dan, who was our veterinary intern in 2002 – Dan is now at the University of Tennesee.

Throughout the week, I ran into so many former co-workers who are out there in the wildlife world, doing big, impressive, important things. I first met all of those people at the Wildlife Center, at a time when they were much younger in their professions, and it’s incredible to see the careers they’ve built for themselves and the contributions they are making to the world of wildlife medicine, disease, and research. Best of all, they are all still the humble, fun, wonderful people who I knew and hung out with so many years ago.

In the past year at the Wildlife Center, we’ve had a few HR projects that have created an opportunity to reflect on our culture at the Center. I’ve been delighted to see a continual theme emerge, which is that WCV seems to attract intelligent, professional, driven people who care deeply about wildlife and conservation – but those people also make life fun for each other. They host holiday parties for their co-workers, go to trivia together, attend each other’s weddings and baby showers, and form life-long friendships.

I’m glad I finally got to go to WDA as a “groupie” and reconnect with so many old friends and co-workers – that week “filled my cup” all the way. I’m also glad to continue to be a part of the WCV team and culture and work with an amazingly dedicated group of people every day.

– Amanda Nicholson, Senior Vice President

Check out all of our year-in-review posts!