Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Oklahoma
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Jennings, C. A., M. Allen, C. Belcher, R. Bringolf, D. Dennerline, T. Goar, K. Kuklinski, J. Long, P. Mazik, D. Riecke, and M. Rogers. Congratulations on Your Promotion to Management: Considerations for New Supervisory Biologists. 2020. Journal of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies 7:103-113.


During the past decade, many senior leaders in natural resource management organizations retired and new leaders were recruited to replace them. The new supervisory biologists now find themselves tasked with operational responsibilities (e.g., personnel, budgets, procurement, safety) with limited formal training in those areas. This sudden role change can be jolting, but need not be debilitating. Here we present information and guidance on various topics ranging from recruiting new personnel and conducting performance evaluations to maintaining a sound safety program as well as legal considerations regarding personal and institutional liabilities for job-related issues. Often, your first task as the new supervisor is to oversee a recruitment effort to fill your old position. This first task is best accomplished by working closely with the designated human resources staff to meet all administrative requirements and deadlines. After the successful hire, effective team leadership is achieved by learning how each staff member is motivated, what they are best able to contribute to the team, and areas for which they may need support. As a new supervisor, you are now responsible for promoting your agency’s safety program to mitigate potential job-related hazards. Despite institutional safeguards, accidents happen or interpersonal interactions can go poorly, and the aggrieved party may litigate for due compensation or to punish the perceived wrongdoer. As a supervisor, you may be a party to these litigations, and understanding your responsibilities in these situations is important for keeping you, your supervisees, and your institution safe and free of liability and help to hold any responsible party accountable when accidents, harassment, bias, or bullying occur. We hope the information provided here will facilitate a smooth transition from mid-career biologist to a supervisory biologist who can efficiently carryout their agency’s mission in natural resource stewardship.