RENO – Rangelands, defined as areas in which lack of moisture limits crop and/or pasture production during part of the year, make up over 50% of Nevada’s land and about 41% of land around the globe. Approximately one-third of the world’s population depends on resources provided by rangelands. However, rangelands are understudied for issues such as climate change compared to other ecosystems.
To prepare students to both study and manage these large land areas, the University of Nevada, Reno College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources offers the Graduate Program in Animal & Rangeland Science.
“The College has been engaged in teaching, research and outreach in animal and rangeland science since the late 1800s,” said Bill Payne, dean of the College. “Ever since, we have maintained strength in these areas. However, I felt that we could become stronger still, and gain even greater national and international prominence. Creating a graduate program in Animal & Rangeland Science was part of that effort. It complements the addition of a number of new, exciting faculty and programs in animal and rangeland sciences and our recent accreditation by the Society for Range Management, which places us among an elite few.”
The program, taught through the College’s Department of Agriculture, Veterinary & Rangeland Sciences, launched in 2018 and offers both master and doctorate degrees in the study of animal science and the ecology, management and restoration of rangeland ecosystems.
“With Nevada’s arid to semi-arid rangelands being so similar to a large part of the world, it makes sense that our land-grant university would provide training and learning opportunities to students interested in the research, ecology and management of rangelands and the animals, both wild and domestic, that use them,” Barry Perryman, interim chair for the department, said. “We provide those opportunities through this program.”
Students in the program learn to address critical needs in animal science and rangeland ecology and management. Some of the skills students will learn include:
- how to apply scientific concepts to research questions and facilities management related to the sustainability of agricultural and natural resources;
- how to develop, plan and execute experiments, inventory, monitoring, assessment and management protocols for large landscapes that use appropriate science and statistical approaches;
- how to effectively compose and articulate scientific concepts through multiple media outlets, including online digital as well as written and oral communications; and
- how to evaluate and apply professional ethics in the design and application of their research and management.
Students also receive hands-on training to use cutting-edge technology to better understand their disciplinary focus, such as food security screening methods, livestock nutrition crop phenotyping, artificial-intelligence-guided statistical analyses, cloud computing, and remote-sensing technologies including belowground systems and ground and airborne drone mounted systems.
“Our students learn about agricultural and meat science, rangeland and nutritional ecology, invasive species, wildfire, droughts and floods,” Associate Professor and Program Director Robert Washington-Allen said. “They learn how these and other factors, such as livestock and forage markets, grazing approaches and wild horses, impact rangeland resources. This is incredibly important because we’ve learned that we understand less about these systems than we thought.”
Graduates of the program have found careers in many different federal and nongovernmental agencies, including the Nature Conservancy, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Geological Survey and even NASA, where they’re conducting tropical and global-level studies using remote sensing. Other graduates have become ranch managers or managers of large nature reserves.