UW team studies how ranch economics affected by sage-grouse conservation efforts

John Tanaka, associate director of the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station

How greater sage-grouse conservation practices have affected ranch economics across six states is being studied by a University of Wyoming research team.

The group in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management will draw input from local ranchers across Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, said John Tanaka, professor and associate director of the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station.

The team will develop cow-calf ranch enterprise budgets for use in models to estimate the economic impacts of different conservation practices on ranches, said Holly Kirkpatrick, one of the research assistants.

Partnerships between federal and state agencies and private landowners have reduced threats to greater sage-grouse in 90 percent of the species’ breeding habitat, said Tanaka. He said the practices have changed the way livestock are grazed on millions of acres of land across the western United States, especially on public lands.

“Ranchers manage extensive areas of those lands and are critical to help keep the bird from being listed as threatened or endangered in the future,” said Tanaka. “The project will assess how ranchers and the communities in which they operate have been affected.”

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New publication shares path to UW research near Laramie Peak

Researcher uses hand-held GPS tool outdoors.
Larry Munn, now retired from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, uses GPS as part of habitat studies at the Rogers Research Center.

How 320 acres in the Laramie Mountains came to be a field site where University of Wyoming students and faculty members conduct forestry and wildlife research is the subject of a new publication about the Rogers Research Site (RRS) northwest of Wheatland.

Ranchers, farmers, cabin owners and other area residents, along with UW, state and federal employees, played a role in the direction of the UW-owned site, according to RRS Bulletin 2, Wide constituency guides early activities and research at Rogers Research Site, north Laramie Mountains, Wyoming.

Their recommendations and a summary of current and completed studies are detailed in the bulletin, available for downloaded at bit.ly/UWEpubs. Enter Rogers Research Site into the search bar.

In 2002, U.S. Army Col. William C. Rogers (1906–2003) bequeathed his land near Laramie Peak to UW with the stipulation that it be used, in part, for research relating to the improvement of forestry and wildlife resources in the Laramie Mountains and across Wyoming.

RRS is under management of the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station (WAES) and one of its four research and extension centers, the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture R&E Center (SAREC) near Lingle.

“WAES is dedicated to serving the people of Wyoming with relevant research,” said UW professor John Tanaka, director of SAREC and associate director of WAES. “As we began planning for RRS, having field days at the site was important for framing the questions we wanted to address.”

Robert Waggener, WAES editor and author of this second bulletin in the RSS series, said that 70 people at a field day in 2005 were asked to rank their priorities for the site.

“Their input provided an important stepping stone for early planning and research,” Waggener said. “Among their top recommendations were forestry and wildlife habitat research, student education, and studies involving water, range ecology and livestock grazing.”

UW employees, students and representatives from the Laramie Peak Fire Zone, Platte County Weed and Pest Control District, Wyoming Game and Fish Department and other agencies contributed further input during later field days and planning sessions.

Former SAREC director Jim Freeburn oversaw early activities at the site.

“The support and responses from agency personnel have been tremendous, and people from the Laramie Peak area gave insightful comments that were heartfelt and showed a passion for the land and resources,” said Freeburn, now the regional training coordinator with Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education.

“Col. Rogers had a great interest in research in forest environments, and it is my hope that UW will carry that tradition forward and complete research that benefits the area and our knowledge base,” Freeburn added.

A quick research shift followed the high-intensity Arapaho Fire in 2012, which burned nearly 100,000 acres in the Laramie Mountains, including RRS lands.

“While the initial thoughts were to study an intact forested landscape,” said Tanaka, “that focus changed with the Arapaho Fire to one of forest restoration.”

Preliminary findings from the ponderosa pine restoration study, a vegetation mapping survey and pre- and post-fire soils research will be detailed in upcoming bulletins. A limited number of printed copies of the first two bulletins will be available at the annual SAREC open house (2753 State Highway 157 near Lingle), 4–8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24.

For more information about the free event, research at RRS or the bulletins, call 307-837-2000 or email sarec@uwyo.edu. An open house schedule is at http://www.uwyo.edu/uwexpstn/centers/sarec/.

UW scientists find soil bacteria require two-layer security just like in digital world

Ph.D. student Chris Vassallo

Those people at Google think they’re sooooo smart. So, too, the Apple and Microsoft wunderkinds.

Their software (and many others) use two-factor authentication in the digital world to verify identity, but they’re a little behind. A one-celled soil bacterium beat them to it by who-knows-how-many millions of years.

University of Wyoming Ph.D. student Chris Vassallo in molecular biologist Dan Wall’s laboratory found the bacterium Myxococcus xanthus perform its equivalent of a secret handshake after an initial meet-and-greet encounter in their social world. The second-level of verification is important. They die if not recognized.

Their results are described in “Infectious polymorphic toxins delivered by outer membrane exchange discriminate kin in myxobacteria” published this week in the open-access journal eLife.

Earlier research in Wall’s lab found these bacteria recognize kin through the cell surface receptor called TraA and transfer cellular goods to each other when touching via a process the lab calls outer membrane exchange (OME). This current research is about the cargo that’s exchanged.

M. xanthus social lifestyle requires them to cooperate with their kin or close family members.

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UW receives grant to develop more accurate brucellosis test for swine, cattle

Ph.D. student Noah Hull’s research project is to develop a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) brucellosis test that would be quicker, cheaper, and more accurate than culture tests used today.

Researchers in the Department of Veterinary Sciences at the University of Wyoming will use a $149,000 grant from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research to help develop a quicker, cheaper and more accurate test to detect brucellosis.

The money will help fund studies to detect swine brucellosis (Brucella suis), which is prevalent among feral swine in most of the United States, but not yet in Wyoming. B. suis can also infect domestic swine and cattle where their populations overlap.

The money will help continue efforts toward creating a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis, an ongoing effort by Dr. Brant Schumaker, DVM, and associate professor in the department.

There is a growing pressure for hog producers to move from confinement production to natural or pasture-raised swine. Serologic (blood) testing cannot discriminate between cattle brucellosis (Brucella abortus) and B. suis exposures.

Associate Professor Brant Schumaker

“I think most of the state understands how much of a problem cattle brucellosis has been in the Greater Yellowstone Area,” said Schumaker, epidemiologist at the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory. He will lead the collaborative project with Texas A&M University.

“If this disease were to come to the state, we would have a hard time differentiating between the two organisms,” said Schumaker.
UW and Texas A&M will match the grant for a total of $299,000 for the project. Funding is through the foundation’s Rapid Outcomes from Agricultural Research (ROAR) program.

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Field day brings together agriculture, draft horses, UW basketball coach

Large brown horses with white manes on either side of smiling man.
UW women’s basketball coach Joe Legerski and Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station mascots Pistol (left) and Pete.

UW Women’s Basketball Coach Joe Legerski and draft horses Pistol and Pete  join researchers, business leaders and agriculture agencies and vendors at the  James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC) for a field day 2-7 p.m. Thursday, August 24 near Lingle.

Registration begins at 3 p.m., and research presentations are 4:30-6 p.m., followed by dinner with UW Women’s Basketball Coach Joe Legerski.

Highlights are hail recovery, Cheatgrass Challenge wrap-up and tours of research plots and high tunnel. Blue tongue disease, hemp and guar trials and wheat variety trials are also field day topics.

The research and extension center is one of four across Wyoming operated by the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station housed in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming.

The free event is in conjunction with Goshen County Economic Development Business After Hours.
For more information contact Kelly Greenwald at (307) 837-2000 or kgreenwa@uwyo.edu.