Jason Hanlon’s youthful face and strong energy hide the fact that he’s a bit older than most of his cohort in the wildlife biology program. It took him a while to get to the University of Montana, but he can’t imagine ever leaving the friends and wild places he calls home.
Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Jason became a union certified electrician in Boston and worked there for ten years wiring new construction projects like the Patriots Stadium. He also taught himself to hunt and fish and uncovered a love for being outside.
After moving back to Albuquerque to take care of his dying father, Jason struggled with drug addiction and criminal activity. He eventually found his way into a treatment program and courses at a local community college. There a business class teacher prodded Jason to make his passion for hunting, fishing, and wildlife into a career path. Jason had always dreamed of living in Montana, so he applied to UM and came here for wildlife biology.
Jason views his age – 38 – as an asset. He can connect with faculty and focus on schoolwork in a way he couldn’t have as a younger person. He’s also served as a role model and mentor to many of his younger classmates. A classmate recently said “As a student who has gotten to know Jason in class, I can say that he is truly a great person and is an inspiration to all.”
Jason worked for three summers at The Nature Conservancy’s Matador Ranch and did an undergraduate research project there on deer mice. The ranch manager helped Jason realize a lifelong dream when he showed up: he asked if he knew how to ride a horse. “I didn’t really know what I was doing, but of course I said yes,” Jason says. He’s now a board member of the Backcountry Horseman of Montana and in October got his first horse. He’ll be riding that horse this summer while working as a land steward assistant for TNC, doing project management and land planning on land in the Blackfoot Valley TNC just purchased.
The biggest lesson Jason has learned as he’s exceled in this rigorous academic program is that it’s really about the people. “In the end it boils down to people and how well you communicate. Wildlife biology is 90% people and 10% wildlife.” With his diverse life experiences and friendly demeanor, Jason makes it easy for people to connect with him.
Jason is graduating with a degree in Wildlife Biology – Terrestrial option. He received the Irene Evers Competitive Undergraduate Research Award, the Philip L. Wright Research Award and is a Mortar Board recipient. He also was the only UM student to receive the Wynn G. Freeman Memorial Scholarship Fund Award from the Montana chapter of The Wildlife Society in 2014.