Horton handles fisheries issues for foundation

As a young fisheries biologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Chris Horton learned early on that natural resource management is as much about working with people as it is fish and wildlife.

Horton, a 1995 biology major at Henderson State University, is now the fisheries program director and Midwestern States director for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.

He serves as the organization’s primary point of contact on marine and freshwater fisheries issues, and works with state legislative sportsmen’s caucuses and governor’s offices in 15 Midwestern states.

Horton arrived at Henderson in 1991 as a freshman aviation major. But he soon learned that pilots were in low demand at that time and switched his major to biology.

“Science, especially biology, had always been a passion for me,” Horton said. “With so many options a biology degree provides – medical fields, veterinary science, natural resource management, etc. – I decided biology would be my primary focus.

“I think the situation in the aviation industry ended up being a blessing. Twenty-one years after graduating from Henderson, I have never regretted my choice to pursue a biology degree.”

After attending graduate school at the University of Arizona, Horton returned to Arkansas to work for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission as its first reservoir research biologist. Two years later, he was “renamed” the state’s black bass biologist.

“That made sense, since bass are the most popular group of sport fish in the state, and 75 percent of my research was on this group of species,” he said.

Horton worked with large bass tournament organizations, and after five years, the B.A.S.S. organization asked if he would be interested in a conservation management job they had created.

“Although I never thought I would leave my dream career with the game and fish commission, I took that job and began working with B.A.S.S. members across the country on conservation and advocacy issues,” he said. “Not long after, I was named the B.A.S.S. conservation director.”

Eight years later, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation approached Horton about working on both hunting and fishing issues.

Horton credits Henderson State for much of his success.

“I would have to say that the most important benefit of my degree at Henderson wasn’t necessarily the information I learned (though that was first class), but rather the experience of progressing from a freshman to a graduate in the Ellis College of Arts and Sciences,” he said. “It gave me the necessary confidence to be successful in not only graduate school, but my entire career.

“The small class size, and the opportunity to personally interact with faculty on a daily basis, provided a unique learning experience that often isn’t available at larger universities.”

Horton said Henderson encouraged his pursuit of a graduate degree.

“I worked closely with my major professor, Dr. Renn Tumlison, in the work study program and through independent research projects, and it was through his encouragement that I considered and ultimately pursued a graduate degree,” he said. “Henderson prepared me very well for that next step, and I often found myself tutoring other graduate students from much larger universities.”

During his graduate studies at the University of Arizona, Horton was recruited by the Arizona Game and Fish Department to help “figure out” why crappie population dynamics were so varied in a chain of four reservoirs.

“Ultimately, they needed management recommendations on how to address the issue,” Horton said. “I independently conducted the literature reviews, designed the study, conducted the sampling, supervised field staff, analyzed the data, and successfully wrote a thesis and report in two years.

“To this day, I have no doubt that my success in graduate school was largely the result of the confidence and drive I gained as a student at Henderson.”