Australian Rangeland Society

At the Xth International Rangeland Congress held in Saskatoon, Canada in July 2016, the ARS awarded 8 prizes for Student Posters presented at the Congress.   Each of these students were awarded an ARS Student Membership with access to the e-Journal.  Some of these winners are introduced below:

 

HAILEY WILMER

I hold a B.S. degree from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY in International Agriculture and Rural Development and Agriculture Science education, a M.S. and a Ph.D. from Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins, CO in Rangeland Ecosystem Science.

Rangelands are places where many knowledges and priorities intersect, and so are a great area for me to link my interests in social science, extension/outreach and agro-ecosystems. I grew up north of Yellowstone National Park, in Montana, USA, where I was exposed early in life to complex environmental management issues, like the management of bison near agricultural lands, and the reintroduction of the grey wolf to the Park. I was also saw, at a young age, how these issues impacted  local communities and national discussions of natural resources, conservation, and agriculture. This background, and exposure to range science in high school,  prompted me to consider studying rangelands after I had taught high school agriculture for a year.

I work in interdiscplinary social-ecological research on the shortgrass steppe of Colorado and the northern mixed prairie of Wyoming, USA. At CSU I trained as a rangeland ecologist and social science, using both rancher interviews and ecological monitoring to document rancher decision-making process and the ecological outcomes. I’m interested in learning more about how rancher decision-making and culture create adaptive capacity in rangeland systems that face frequent droughts, extreme weather events, and dynamic social contexts. I’m interested in how gender influences the resilience of ranching systems, and in the processes of ranch succession. I’m also interested in how science-management partnerships can enhance learning and democratic decision-making processes in publicly held rangelands managed for multiple objectives, including wildlife, livestock production and vegetation composition.

I finished my PhD at CSU in October and am currently a fellow at the US Department of Agriculture Northern Plains Climate Hub. At the Hub, I am continuing social-ecological research throughout Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota that will contribute to climate smart decision-support tools for rangeland managers in the region. I hope to pursue an academic career in interdisciplinary rangeland research and teaching, with a focus on semi-arid rangelands of the Western US.

Photo: This prescribed burn photo was taken this autumn at the Central Plains Experimental Range in Nunn, Colorado, US (I’m on the right). The burn was conducted as a treatment in our Collaborative Rangeland Management Experiment, a 10-year project wherein a group of diverse rangeland stakeholders collaborate with interdisciplinary scientists to manage 10 pastures and a herd of yearling steers for multiple objectives.

 

What do you think are the most important issues in the rangelands today?

One of the most important issues in rangelands today is finding methods and processes that link scientists and managers in the co-development of strategies for adaptation to the effects of climate change on rangelands. This is not so much an issue of communicating science to manager communities, but an issue of finding ways to learn together, and to appreciate and challenge diverse ways of knowing about and adapting to complex rangeland systems. If the rangeland profession is to address this issue, we must train a new generation of diverse rangeland scientists able to work with the many rangeland “knowledges” that multiple disciplines and rangeland users practice.

KASSIA JAMES

ity kid who really likes country music too much, and fell in love with plant identification in college. I went to a wonderful college about 2.5 hours from where I grew up. I kind of lucked out finding the school, all I knew was I wanted to work outside, make a difference, and do something for the environment. From that short list I enrolled in college in Environmental Sciences, majoring in Conservation and Restoration Ecology.

I got involved in rangeland management when I transferred from college to university. The two years of college were transferred for the full two years’ worth of credit so I was already halfway finished my bachelors’ degree when I started at the University of Alberta. The plant identification courses at the university were what cemented my love for rangelands, something about the challenge of identifying a plant, particularly a grass, from a small weathered sampled is more fun than it has the right to be. The professors at the university have a vehement passion for rangeland management that will wake up students in an 8:00 am class or keep students in class till late at night.

The project I am currently working on came about because a powerline was constructed across the University of Alberta’s research ranch using access mats as a mitigation tool. The effects on the soils and vegetation were not what was expected, and finding limited research my project was created to look at the effects of the access mats on soils and vegetation.

I’m looking at a construction mitigation technique (access mats) recently adopted for use on rangelands. Construction is best done while soils are frozen or dry, and while I am working in Canada and the soils are frozen for a large portion of the year, large construction projects can and do continue throughout the year. My project looks at a mitigation of soil compaction using access mats and the effects on soils and vegetation. Access mats are large wooden mats used to create temporary access (thus their name) and construction platforms, and are used based on the principles of redistribution of weight. If you have ever left something on lawn grass for a length of time during the growing season you would notice the yellow grass underneath when that item is removed. We are seeing much the same effect on the native prairie vegetation from these mats. We are looking at a number of different soil parameters, such as bulk density, water infiltration times, and penetration resistance as factors of soil compaction. For the vegetation we are looking at the short term recovery (the study will likely extend beyond the two years of a masters’ degree, so the long term recovery will be covered, but likely not by myself). Vegetation parameters we are looking at include biomass production, carbon and nitrogen content and community composition changes.

Photo:  Field work on the Mattheis Research Ranch showing my research partner Faezeh Najafi.

 

After completing my postgraduate studies I’m hoping to work with the government managing public lands and working with ranchers to manage public grazing reserves on our rangelands. My schooling has been training me for this job and I didn’t even know such a job existed until a few years ago. I will stay involved with rangelands even as a hobby regardless of where I am employed in the future. It’s impossible to turn off your brain once you learn to see the ecology that is out there.

What do you think are the most important issues in the rangelands today?

We are seeing some great movements in support of the environment, with the year of the soil, the attention temperate grasslands are receiving, and just the appreciation that people are developing for holistic management. I would love to see more young people becoming involved in societies for rangeland management – there are unlimited possibilities to share our knowledge and build enthusiasm for this body of work.

I also think social media is a great way to present and share knowledge. I’m currently working on an Instagram page for my rangeland society’s chapter.

MOHAMED HABIBOU ASSOUMA

I was born on March 21st, 1986, in Cotonou, Benin Republic (West Africa). I’m the eldest son of an humble forestry public officer and his wife with quite strict upbringing rules and the mission to set an example for my brothers and sisters.


I graduated from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences of the University of Abomey-Calavi (FSA/UAC) (Republic of Benin) where I achieved a BSc degree in General Agronomy in 2008, an Agricultural Engineering degree in 2009 and a MSc Degree in 2011. Directly after graduation my first professional experience as project manager gave me the opportunity to discover in the field the importance of local stakeholder engagement in the integrated water resource management at the level of the watershed of a river. While I benefited from a strong field and real world experience, I stood in tight contact with the scientific community and prepared myself for a PhD. After succeeding on a scholarship grant call of the Merit Scholarship Programme for High Technology’ of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB -MSP) and the support of the EU funded “AnimalChange” project I started my doctorate thesis in the research unit, “Tropical and Mediterranean Animal Production Systems” of the “French agricultural research and international cooperation organization for development” (CIRAD).

Whilst many scientists had already discussed the impact of livestock industry on climate change as summarized in the FAO report titled “Livestock and long shadow” (Rome, 2006), references were few and limited in particular to quantify the actual impact of pastoral livestock on greenhouse gas balance in the Sahel. This set the challenge of my PhD thesis defended in October 2016 at Montpellier (France) in front of an international jury of researchers from African universities (Niger and Senegal), CIRAD, FAO, AGROPARISTECH and CGIAR.

As an agronomist and a forester, I am paying a particular attention to the impact of natural resource management on the climate change issues. My research interests include the ways for sustainable management of natural resources with particular attention to the ecosystem functioning, GHG balance and C&N cycles in agro sylvo-pastoral systems, integrated water resource management and climate change.

My first piece of international scientific publication, which was undertaken as a PhD student travelling between France (Toulouse and Montpellier) and Senegal (Dakar and Widou), developed a method to analyze the impact of ruminant herds on the GHG balance of sylvo-pastoral ecosystems under the semi-arid tropical climate of Widou in northern Senegal. Native from a region of wetter savannah in West Africa, I discovered the pastoral husbandry of Sahel rangelands under drier and warmer climate. I learned to live among Fulbe herders, large zebu cattle herds and sheep flocks that I tracked along their seasonal transhumance. To achieve the objective, I designed and implemented an original and multidisciplinary measurement protocol to monitor year round the components of the pastoral ecosystem (livestock intake and excretions, herbaceous growth and decay, woody foliage production and phenology, soil moisture and gas fluxes).

Photos:  Left – Gobra zebu cattle herd watering in a small pond in Widou rangelands (Senegal, July 2014); Right – Soil GHG flux measurement using static chambers around a settlement (Senegal, September 2014)

 

I have acquired a solid background in understanding the functioning of the Sahel rangeland ecosystem and a great practical experience of experimentation development in tropical grazing system.

It is my intention to continue research in partnership and networks centered on the pastoral systems and interfaces with agriculture and forestry, looking at facilitation, competiveness and efficiency. In this view I started to take part in the development and implementation of the Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model (GLEAM) by FAO.

SAID MOUKRIM 

was born and grew up in Morocco. I obtained a B.Sc in general agronomy and an Engineer diploma in Rural Economy (M.S. degree equivalent in Rural economy Engineering) from the National School of Agriculture of Meknes, where I became fascinated by natural’s ecosystems. The focus of my M.S. project was on natural resource management and Bio-economic modelling.

After working for the BAYER-AG Company in marketing and sales department in Morocco, I changed course and returned to my favorite domain “natural resource management” and worked as an Engineer in the forest department in Morocco (High Commission on Water, Forests and Combating against Desertification). I was promoted to Head of “Forest-Rangeland Management Office”. A focus of my work has been to contributing to the development of a national strategy on silvopastoralism, to monitoring the implementation of the mechanism of subsidies for forest grazing prohibition on national forests area, to supervise forest-rangeland studies and to promote collaborative and participatory approach and assist local communities to apply the principles and practices of sustainable rangeland management.

Working in this area has become central to my career. Subsequently, since October 2015 I started Ph.D. studies at Mohammed-V University Rabat, Faculty of Sciences, Laboratory of Botany, Mycology and Environment in Morocco. My research program focuses on the development of models to predict changes in the spatial distribution of forest-rangeland ecosystem in response to climate change. Such understanding of land suitability is valuable for prioritizing short and long-term management efforts and is very useful for supporting decision-making process. Also, my current research aims to develop and promote participatory and multifunctional forest-rangeland management models that ensure the integrity of the forest ecosystem and conservation of biodiversity, improve forest-rangelands productivity and combating against desertification.

I have published articles and book chapters and have participated in several congresses and scientific events in national and international level (TEEB-2011 in Tunisia, ISRM-2014 in Boise-Idaho, ASRDLF-2016 in Gatineau, IRC-2016 in Saskatoon, SIAM-2016 and COP22 in Morocco).

Forest-rangelands in Morocco cover 9-M.ha, with high levels of biodiversity. Located in arid and semi-arid land and facing rapid population growth and high risk of deforestation and rangeland degradation. Excessive livestock-grazing is the greatest threat to the health and sustainability of Morocco’s forest-rangelands, then, 30% of small ruminants (sheep and goats), in addition to Camel in the south of this kingdom, are kept in various systems and graze mainly on forest domain. Historically, populations have developed traditional systems in order to regulate natural resource uses between tribes which reconcile social needs and environmental sustainability. Over the last 50 years, most of these sustainable principles have been undermined. A combination of changes in demographyclimatetechnologypolitics, and the economy have intensified practices resulting in a variety of ‘natural resource crises’ and have lead to open access of that common resource pool. However, unregulated use is causing damage and degradation to forest-rangelands areas. This unsustainable use and lack of cooperation among users and luck of local communities involvment are leading to downward trend in rangeland condition, and a hazardous future for forest and pasture resources.

SINDISO CHAMANE

I completed my undergraduate and postgraduate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, while my Masters  in Grassland Science was a collaborative project with Yale University in the United States looking at the effect of fire frequency on herbivore distribution at the Kruger National Park.

I have a keen interest on the sustainable use of natural resources. I am working with Professor Kevin Kirkman, Mr Craig Morris and Professor Tim O’Connor and my PhD is on the effects of short duration, high intensity grazing management (HDG) on soils and vegetation composition on a South African mesic grassland. The study was conducted on an experimental design at Ukulinga Research Farm at the University of KwaZu-Natal and on a fence-line contrast  in Cedarville and Kokstad, South Africa.

HDG is being recommended as a management style in the South African mesic grassland, but there’s concern at the lack of scientific evidence behind it. By concentrating grazing animals into camps for short periods of time, HDG is purported to reduce selective grazing, break the soil crust to increase soil infiltration and reduce erosion, increase nutrients, improve plant diversity, and preserve moisture.

My poster at the IRC was focused on the Kokstad fence-line contrast which demonstrates the contrasting use by two neighbouring farmers of short duration high density grazing (HDG) with zero burning and a conventional rotation grazing at low densities (LDG) with a burning frequency of two to four years. The farmers have been using these management practices for 20 years. The results showed that LDG site actually had better forage species diversity and good variation of forbs, and that there was no difference in soil nutrient composition. HDG sites also showed increased presence of alien species and a dominance of species that can withstand heavy grazing. The results indicates that HDG potentially has negative impacts on mesic grassland swards.

After I finish studying, I would like to continue with research focusing on fire/herbivore interactions in grassland and savanna ecosystems to help us understand how best to maintain these rangelands for biodiversity conservation and sustainable livestock production at small and large scales.

What do you think are the most important issues in the rangelands today?

1. The increase in variability of annual rainfall and temperature is a major concern for the rangelands worldwide

2. The lack of understanding on the responses of the non-graminoid species to key disturbances (such as fire and grazing) in rangelands, yet these species contribute more towards plant diversity when compared to the grasses that make up most of the biomass.

JESSICA GRENKE

My background is actually in land-reclamation. I began my undergraduate career working and studying the soils-based rehabilitation of the northern Albertan oil sands. Though my studies have shifted to rangeland management, understanding the science of rebuilding ecosystems from ground-zero up has been immensely beneficial in understanding rangeland functioning as a scientist and land manager.  I am currently finishing an undergraduate degree majoring in Rangeland and Wildlife Resources Management from the University of Alberta and will be graduating in April.

I fully committed to studying rangelands once I realized how well rangeland science is adapted to solve contemporary land management issues. Rangeland science recognizes the importance of integration of all natural sciences fields, that humans are an integral part of landscape use, and holds stewardship as a grounding philosophy. Natural resources management abounds with examples of failures caused by a myopic scientific view, the exclusion of direct human impact as a long-term solution, and profit maximization as the bottom line. Thus the rangeland sciences philosophy makes the most sense to me as an ecologist.

It’s extremely difficult to pick just one area to specialize in, but plant ecology of western Canada IS where I’d like to end up. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with James F. Cahill Jr. and Edward Bork examining recreational trail impacts on range health as well as motion-sensor camera data as indicators of biodiversity with the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute.  After I finish studying, I would love to work as a land manager while continuing research. I’m too interested in both to pick one at the moment!

Photo: My study site near Pincher’s Creek, Alberta, Canada

What do you think are the most important issues in the rangelands today?

In Alberta at least, conservation of rangelands as a land use (over more profitable land-uses such as urban sprawl) is an urgent challenge. Globally, the wide-spread lack of rangeland knowledge by the general public (especially urbanites) is the root cause of loss of range and requires widespread awareness and extension programs if range will survive in the long-term.