Jay Cooney is an aspiring Conservation Biologist living in Buffalo, New York, where he is pursuing a Master’s degree in Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior at SUNY Buffalo. Jay grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania where his father introduced him to the joys and frustrations of hunting white-tailed deer from frigid tree stands. He spent his childhood daydreaming about the mastodons that once roamed his backyard, and imagined chasing Bigfoot to understand our animal origins. It was this early curiosity about Paleontology and Anthropology that would eventually bring clarity to the deeper role of hunting in Jay’s life.
Jay spent a short, yet formative time in college committed to vegetarianism, but soon found himself yearning for a more direct and active engagement with ecology than that provided by a diet of store-bought vegetables. As a journey towards 'self-rewilding,' hunting has enabled Jay to pursue identity and sustenance as a human animal through a participatory role in ecosystems.
Jay loves birding, wildlife photography, and writing about the past and future of human-nonhuman animal interactions. He lives for the thrill of a deer snorting at him during a night hike, and the satisfaction of peanut butter during a backpacking trip. In his graduate research, Jay is using camera traps to develop noninvasive individual monitoring of deer and elk. In his life ahead, he aims to take an interdisciplinary path of helping decolonize conservation through supporting Indigenous justice, contributing a social-ecological approach to deer management, and reorienting humanity back towards restorative self-understanding as animals in a more-than-human world.