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Alumnus Ben Baker '11 Earns National Rabies Management Award | SUNY Plattsburgh

Ben Baker ’11 was recently honored as the 2015 Rabies Wildlife Specialist of the year by the National Rabies Management Program.

A wildlife specialist with the Wildlife Services division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, he is one of 60 wildlife specialists and biologists in the eastern U.S. who work for the National Rabies Management Program.

Baker came to SUNY Plattsburgh to earn a bachelor’s in environmental science nine years after graduating from Hudson Valley Community College in the late 1990s.

Returning to the classroom after several years in the workforce, he wasn’t sure what to expect. He found the faculty in the environmental science program to be welcoming and accommodating.

“Everybody here was willing to go above and beyond and to spend extra time with me,” he said. “That was the big thing. Everybody was very easy going and understanding and was willing to help in any way they could.”

“I became friends with quite a few of them (faculty).”

Internship Turned Career

His work on rabies control started with a summer internship he did with Wildlife Services trapping and vaccinating raccoons.

“I really enjoyed it, being out in the field and learning about rabies and the different aspects of it,” Baker said.

Now, he’s the resident rabies expert for Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties.

He works with many agencies including the Clinton County Health Department, Plattsburgh City Police, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and area town and village officials.

“I love it. I couldn’t sit behind a desk. I’m an active person, I’ve got to be moving,” Baker said.

Ongoing Vaccination Project

Currently, he’s working on a large-scale project to mitigate rabies in the northeast by helping to place baits containing an oral vaccine in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. In 2015, the National Rabies Management Program distributed about 7.9 million baits in 15 states as far south as Georgia.

“This project is the largest, coordinated wildlife disease management program ever undertaken in North America and focuses on eliminating rabies in wildlife,” said Richard Chipman, national rabies management coordinator for the Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services.

“Ben’s field skills and commitment to rabies management have been an important part of making this program a success.”

Baker was nominated for the award by his coworkers and supervisors and was further recommended by a panel of biologists and rabies management experts for his field proficiency, communications skills, knowledge of rabies and initiative and enthusiasm for rabies management. He was ultimately selected by Chipman.

After accepting his award at Chipman’s office in Concord, N.H., Baker returned to Plattsburgh to get started on the busy summer trapping season, which sometimes results in 60 or 70-hour work weeks.

But no two days at work are the same, and that’s the way he likes it.

“I’m a lot of different places, I meet a lot of different, interesting people and see so much wildlife. It’s amazing that this is my job and I get to see this and do this,” he said.

“It’s almost like I’m not working. I’m getting paid to do what I enjoy.”

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