March 9, 2020

Current Research

Western Speaker Series
Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bozeman, MT
Each year, UHPSI hosts a western speaker series focusing on conservation and stewardship issues in the American West. The series may be one focused event or several small events spanning several topics. The student assistants are currently working with UHPSI staff to plan presentations, career chats, or training by a series of western conservation professionals. The series will be virtual this year, and we are excited to create opportunities for Yale students to hear from and connect with leaders in their fields of interest. Read more…


Photo by Bill Milton

Collaborative Rangeland Monitoring and Management in Montana
Range Monitoring Group, MT
The Range Monitoring Group (RMG), a Montana collaborative that includes ranchers, scientists and non-profit conservation groups, has implemented a pilot project focused on using rangeland monitoring and collective knowledge to inform and improve land management. Our research team has partnered with RMG to identify key indicators to use in range monitoring and operationalize them for the Northern Great Plains ecosystems based on existing literature and ranchers’ on-the-ground experiences. Our team is also working directly with ranchers, participants in the pilot project, to document their experiences with monitoring and information sharing. Read more…


Elkhorn Mountain Conifer Density Survey
Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bozeman, MT
In partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Pheasants Forever in Bozeman, MT, our student, Will, is using geospatial analysis and remote sensing to determine conifer density and potential encroachment in the Elkhorn Mountain region. Throughout western Montana, there are forest plant communities that have not burned in decades. Lack of fire may lead to conifer encroachment of grasslands and increase fuel loads which heighten wildfire risks within these communities. This analysis will locate areas within the Elkhorn Mountains that are conifer dense and may need mechanical thinning to create more wildfire resilient communities. Read more…


Innovative Risk & Reward Sharing Between Farmers and the Supply Chain for Biodynamic and Organic Grain, Pulse and Oil Seeds
Vilicus Farms
UHPSI research assistants are working with Vilicus Farms to review and compile strategies for sharing risk and rewards across non-food supply chains and propose ways to implement and adopt them in the food supply chain. Vilicus Farms is a grain, legume, and oilseed farm located in the Northern Great Plains of Montana pioneering organic, ecologically responsible farming at scale. Vilicus Farms aims to redesign not only the farm, but also how the farm fits into a larger supply chain and economic system. This project recognizes the inherent imbalance of risk that exists at the farm level and how that imbalance prevents organic acreage expansion. As such, the team is exploring mechanisms and alternative economic structures that more equitably share and realign risk and rewards across the supply chain. Read more…


Exploring Inherding as a Grazing Practice for Conservation and Rangeland Health in the West
Texas A&M University — Kingsville
UHPSI research assistants have partnered with Texas A&M University-Kingsville and a Wyoming ranch to study the feasibility of implementing inherding in the western U.S. Inherding is the practice of strategically herding cattle in a manner that prevents rangeland overuse, promotes livestock well-being, and facilitates natural-resource conservation. Unlike more conventional grazing strategies, inherding requires handlers to remain with the herd for the entirety of the grazing period. By using rancher knowledge to plan herd movement, inherding allows herds to ingest phytochemically rich diets and manages cattle use of the rangeland to support stewardship goals such as riparian restoration while minimizing human-predator conflicts. Read more…


Photo by Tom Osborne

Stillwater-Rosebud Water Quality Initiative Conservation Planning for Stillwater Valley Watershed Council
Our team is working to design and deploy a portfolio of GIS tools for the Stillwater Valley Watershed Council, focusing specifically on the Rosebud Creek. In its headwaters, the Rosebud Creek is a designated National Wild and Scenic River. Land use in the lower reaches of the Rosebud Creek’s riparian corridor has gradually transformed in the past decades. Cattle grazing and hay production remain the dominant land uses, along with an increase in un-sewered residential and recreational property development near the creek. Our team is conducting a geographic analysis of land use change and its potential effects on water quality. Read more…


Photo by The Nature Conservancy

Recreation and Conservation Planning for Fishers Peak State Park
The Nature Conservancy Colorado
In partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Colorado, our research team is working across ecological and recreational decision-making processes to help inform planning and management for Colorado’s new Fishers Peak State Park. The park is located in southern Colorado near the city of Trinidad and comprises 19,200 acres, rich with biodiversity and recreational potential. Our objective is to build an evidence base to link ecological conservation and recreational planning using the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation model as a baseline. We will conduct a literature review of the relationships among ecosystems, species, and recreation at the park which will provide scientific basis for key performance indicators that will be used to monitor long-term park management practices. Read more…


Wildlife-Friendly  Ranching in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, University of Pittsburgh
Rory Jacobson and Anna-Sophia Haub are working with partners at the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, and the University of Pittsburgh to study ranchers’ perspectives on conservation and wildlife management in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. To understand the economic, social, and cultural drivers behind these perceptions and management strategies, they are conducting formal qualitative interviews with experts, ranchers, and beef certifiers. This research will assist in identifying  and understanding potential opportunities to support ranchers who wish to implement more wildlife management strategies with their ranching operation. Read more…