For each of the project areas, our study depends on opportunities presented by past management or disturbance, and uncertainties identified in state-and-transition model workshops and scientific literature. We have two MS students, and two PhD students working on our project. Some of their research is featured below.

Dissertation: Extending State-and-Transition Models for Adaptive Management of Wildlife Habitat on Western Rangelands

Jennifer Timmer

I am developing habitat models for songbirds and sage-grouse in relation to several ecological sites and sagebrush management treatments. I plan to contribute to our state-and-transition models by assessing wildlife habitat for songbirds and sage-grouse in a spatial context.

Dissertation: Balancing Ranch Economics and Rangeland Ecology

Aaron Hrozencik

My research seeks to understand the connections that exist between profitable ranching and rangeland ecology. Particularly how this connection relates to the non-market ecosystem services provided by the rangeland (e.g. wildlife habitat, biodiversity). By incorporating ecological data gathered by the Learning From the Land team, this research will aid policy makers in devising optimal prices for ecosystem services.

MS Thesis: Alternate Stable States in the Sagebrush Steppe: Models, Metrics, and Mechanisms

Crystal Tipton

I am interested in what makes ecosystems resilient to perturbations and in particular in identifying ecosystem feed-backs that either maintain or drive changes in ecosystem structure and function.  For my thesis I am working to:

1) develop a conceptual state-and-transition model of changes in vegetation structure, and associated management and environmental conditions, on loamy ecological sites in eastern Moffat County, CO.

2) test the plausibility of a hypothesized feedback between structure, litter decomposition, and nitrogen cycling as an explanation for the loss of herbaceous under-story as sagebrush cover increases on the Deep Clay Loam ecological site of western Routt County.

3) determine the utility and relative feasibility of the basal-gap-intercept metric in distinguishing functionally different states across a precipitation gradient in northwest Colorado.

Green rangeland with blue sky and clouds
Soil profile next to the site it was taken from.

Adaptive Management Experiments

Adaptive management is “the incorporation of the scientific method (experiments) into a management framework” (Aldridge et al. 2004) or in other words, learning the maximum amount from management actions by using replication, controls and before and after monitoring, and applying this knowledge to future actions.

Two adaptive management experiments are currently underway:
1. Testing the efficacy of seeding of perennial grasses and forbs following spray treatment for weedy species (near Hayden, CO). In conjunction with the Routt County Weed Program and Routt County Extension.

2. Testing the efficacy of an innovative mechanical treatment for improving sage-grouse habitat and balancing the needs of sage-grouse and livestock (near Craig, CO). In partnership with CSU Extension’s staff from Tri-River Area Extension Entomology and Agronomy, and funded by a Fellowship from the Center for Collaborative Conservation.

Aldridge, C. L., M. S. Boyce, R. K. Baydack. 2004. Adaptive management of prairie grouse: how do we get there? Wildlife Society Bulletin 32:92-103.