Logging workforce development: who will log?

Loggers play an essential role in ensuring the sustainability of forests along with the wood industries that depend on them. Yet, the logging sector faces concerns with recruiting and retaining skilled loggers. On-going work on this emerging topic include continued analysis of past logger survey data, coordination with colleagues in Minnesota, and a project-based course for Spring 2015.

More to come as the this project theme is further developed. Primary current support for these activities is through USDA NIFA RREA Capacity Funding.

Grazing and public lands in Wisconsin

This project will investigate the potential for grazing livestock on publicly owned and managed grasslands and to analyze theenvironmental, economic and social outcomes of that activity.  The need for this information rests on two primary drivers – the need for cost-effective grassland management and the potential for these lands to increase the profitability of Wisconsin grass-farmers.  This project, designed as a two-phase adaptive research model, will begin to fill these knowledge gaps by investigating the ways in which grazing can be used to meet the goals of various stakeholders, including agency personnel (e.g. WI DNR), conservationists (e.g. The Nature Conservancy, The Prairie Enthusiasts), public land users, and local livestock producers.  It is a practical, applied project thatembodies the Wisconsin Idea, and the USDA national and state priorities. The way in which the project aims to balance ecological,social, and economic objectives demands a multidisciplinary approach that matches very well with the goals and approaches of the UW CALS Agroecology MS program –  interdisciplinary research, education, and outreach. As such, the PIs have agreed to focus anyawarded RAships on Agroecology graduate students in an effort to bolster the Program’s profile in the University and the State.

This project, funded through the USDA NIFA Hatch Act competition administered by UW CALS, runs from October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2019. Randy Jackson (Agronomy) is the lead investigator on this project along with Chris Ribic (Forest & Wildlife Ecology), Mark Renz (Agronomy), and Mark Rickenbach.

Public and community perceptions of renewable energy options

Sustainable energy platforms (e.g., cellulosic biofuels, biogas, solar, etc.) have and will continue to transform energy production and policy with myriad effects on land use, local communities, and regional economies. Public perceptions and preferences are critical, but understudied, factors in energy planning and development. In this integrated project, we study public views and engage key actors (i.e., extension educators, local and state leaders, planners) toward sustainable energy through two objectives. (1) Investigate and segment public perceptions and leadership preferences (i.e., who and at what scale) associated with sustainable energy. (2) Build capacity among key actors to interpret and apply social science findings toward effective planning and policy efforts. Our research component investigates and segments public perceptions and preferred “loci of leadership” for sustainable energy along two dimensions: (a) local to global, and (b) private—public—non-profit. Methods include a statewide mail survey of Wisconsin households (n = 1,200), and follow-on 5-7 focus groups to enhance data interpretation. Our extension component interactively and iteratively engages key actors toward increased capacity to apply social science research to effectively incorporate public views in energy-related processes. Of note is our strong integrated project team that spans research, extension, and energy expertise.

This project, funded through the USDA NIFA Hatch Act competition administered by UW CALS, runs from October 1, 2012 through September 30, 2015.

Silvopasture and grazier networks

This project addresses two challenges for grazing in Wisconsin. (1) Woodland grazing is a common, there are no science-based guidelines to benefit livestock or minimize ecological harm. (2) Summer heat stresses pastured animals, causing declines in productivity. We ask, How can the positive impacts of woodland shade be balanced with the potentially negative ecological impacts of livestock on woodlands? We will study the effects of silvopasture, an agroforestry approach, on animal well-being and the environment.

Specifically, we will compare four treatments: (1) ungrazed woods, (2) woods that are open to livestock but not managed as silvopasture, (3) woods that are open to livestock and managed as silvopasture (i.e., seeded with shade-tolerant cool-season forage), and (4) open pasture without any trees. The ungrazed woods (treatment 1) will act as the control for studying the effects of grazing and silvopasture on woodland vegetation. The open pasture (treatment 4) will be the control for studying the effect of shade on livestock heat stress.

Complementing this research, we will expand a nascent network of interested farmers, researchers, and resource professionals to facilitate knowledge exchange on silvopasture toward broader adoption. We will also work with farmers to design and implement silvopasture trials on their farms.

Initial funding, awarded to Diane Mayerfeld and Mark Rickenbach for 2013-2015 came from the Kickapoo Valley Reforestation Fund. That effort focused on exploratory discussions and focus groups with graziers and resource managers. The above description is for a recently awarded USDA NIFA Hatch Act competition administered by UW CALS. The project team includes Mark Rickenbach, Diane Mayerfeld, Dan Schaefer (Animal Science), Eric Kruger (Forest & Wildlife Ecology), and Rhonda Gildersleeve (UWEX-Cooperative Extension). Work will run from October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2019.

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