Maggi Sliwinski, applied ecology doctoral student, and Mark Burbach, associate geoscientist in UNL’s School of Natural Resources, have been awarded a grant from the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program. Nearly $10,000 in grant funds will go toward studying the human dimensions of ranch management.
“My goal is to understand how landowners make management decisions on their ranch, and to dig into potential strategies for landscape management,” Sliwinksi said. “My interest lies in the protection and restoration of native grassland habitats. We are quickly learning that doing this successfully will require cross-property management, rather than management of islands of habitat.”
More than 98 percent of the Nebraska land area is under private ownership, Burbach said.
“Thus, maintaining grassland ecosystems is dependent on the combined actions of individuals who must maintain the economic viability of their ranching operations,” he said.
Sliwinksi’s research will determine how to best encourage and incentivize the management of ranches as landscape units for the benefit of both grassland wildlife and the ranchers who steward these grasslands.
“Without profitable ranches, grassland ecosystems are at greater risk of being mismanaged or converted to crop agriculture,” she said.
This grant was awarded as part of NCR-SARE’s Graduate Student Grant Program, a competitive grant program for graduate student projects that address sustainable agriculture issues. All NCR-SARE grant programs focus on research and education. Funding considerations are made based on how well the applicant articulates the nature of the research and education components of their sustainable agriculture grant proposals.
Sliwinski said she’s looking forward to interacting more directly with private landowners and interviewing them prior to developing a landowner survey.
“I was excited when I heard about being awarded this grant,” Sliwinski said. “I will now be able to do more of what I came to SNR to do.”