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UW students take top awards at Society for Range Management convention

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Spokane, Wash. – The Society for Range Management (SRM) Annual Meeting draws an international audience and provides the opportunity for students and range management professions to connect professionally, says Jeff Beck, Rangeland Wildlife Habitat Restoration Ecologist at UW, adding that over 130 UW alumni, students and friends attended the event, held Jan. 28 – Feb. 3 this year.
    “They have a really well organized technical program and all kinds of sessions and symposiums on all rangeland issues, from grazing to wildlife habitat to rangeland monitoring and assessment,” Beck comments. “The event covers all the issues that people deal with everyday.”
Student contests
    Students from UW were involved in a number of events at the meeting, including poster presentations and contests. Participants competed in extemporaneous speaking, the undergraduate range management exam, the rangeland plant identification contest and a poster competition.
    UW student Ben Jones received the first place prize in the undergraduate extemporaneous speaking contest, and UW received second place in the Rangeland Cup.
    “The Rangeland Cup looks at examining complex issues in range management,” explains UW professor Tom Thurow.
    Sage Askin of Douglas also received top honors at SRM, walking away with the first place prize in the undergraduate range management exam.
    “It is a very difficult test, and he got an 81 percent,” says Beck of Askin’s performance. “Students are asked to do calculations and a lot of higher order thinking about concepts. He did really well.”
    Beck adds that of 23 UW students who took the test, the top three scores are added together for a team score, and UW took second place as a team. Twenty-five teams competed in the event for a total of 203 students.
    UW students also put together a poster presentation that included a video, receiving third place for their efforts.
    “The Trail Boss award is given to the university with the most points from all of the events,” explains Beck. “This is the first year that the award has been given, and UW won.”
    Master’s student Megan Taylor also received honors for her oral paper presentation titled “Rehabilitation seeding and soil dynamics associated with invasive species in a semi-desert sagebrush shrub land.” She placed first out of 27 participants.
UW leadership
    UW senior Travis Decker of Craig, Colo. was nominated as the Vice President of the SRM Student Conclave, as well.
    “The Student Conclave is the organization that helps students and the SRM combine efforts and work together to get activities planned for the students,” explains Decker. “We help to run and plan the events.”
    “Vice President is a new office this year,” adds Decker, who says he has big goals for the year, including increasing student involvement at SRM.
    This year, Decker notes that Sheridan College and Casper College attended the meeting for the first time, and UW’s team did very well.
    Decker says, “I really wanted to make sure that Wyoming was still a leader, and I’m excited to be a part of this program and to help out where I can.”
    “It was a great opportunity to attend the SRM annual meeting, and I encourage any students who are interested to contact the Range Club to find out more information,” he adds.
Faculty achievements
    UW’s faculty was also honored at the event. Thurow was selected as the Range Science Education Council’s Undergraduate Teaching Award winner, which is the top teaching award in the profession. Thurow is a professor at UW and has been at the school for 11 years.
    “It’s a great, heartfelt honor to have received the award,” comments Thurow. “I’ve written a lot of letters of support for people over my career and am always extremely happy to do that. It is humbling and a great honor to have that process proceed through with the students and faculty writing letters on my behalf.”
    He also praised UW’s students a range management program, saying, “Our students were contenders and winners across the whole spectrum of components association with the SRM exams.”
Range management at UW
    UW had the most students present at the meeting, and Thurow adds that they also proved to be some of the best informed and educated students.
    Range management at UW has grown to reflect that in the last ten years, according to Thurow, who notes, “We are now the biggest range management program in the world.”
    “It is really gratifying to see how much progress we’ve been able to make over the last 10 years,” explains Thurow. “Our enrollments have consistently increased, and the quality of our students have consistently become stronger. We are now recognized as a leader in undergraduate and graduate education in the range management profession across the nation and the world.”
    UW students worked hard through their Range Management Club to prepare for the event, including fundraising and practicing for contests. Each year, the Range Club cuts firewood in the fall and organizes a banquet and raffle in the spring to fund travel to the SRM annual meeting.
    “This year, our students also organized a ranching symposium in the fall to better inform other students about the issues that livestock producers face,” explains Beck. “They are organized very well and prepared themselves for the event.”
    The UW Range Club also competes at the state SRM meeting in the fall.
    “Overall, our students had a fantastic performance,” says Beck.
    Saige Albert is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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