Rangeland Extension professionals empower agricultural producers with research-based, practical information to improve environmental sustainability while enhancing quality of life and economic viability for ranchers and rural communities. Well-managed rangelands are a key component of sustainable agriculture as they help satisfy human food and fiber needs and contribute to producers’ economic security while also protecting watershed health, providing wildlife habitat, improving water quality, promoting plant diversity, and storing carbon. Rapid advances in communications technology are quickly providing new and valuable opportunities to educate and train sustainable agriculture professionals on innovative approaches for stakeholder outreach and engagement. This two-year project will specifically increase the capacity of rangeland Extension professionals to leverage novel technologies and more effectively reach, educate, and train ranchers and rangeland managers across the Western SARE region. Our interdisciplinary team consists of rangeland Extension professionals at the University of Arizona, University of Hawaii, and University of California, Davis; communications technology experts; The Rangelands Partnership (RP); and livestock producers. Working with our extensive partner networks, we will (1) organize a two-day conference for rangeland Extension professionals with hands-on technology training focused on stakeholder-identified novel technologies in sustainable rangeland management; (2) create a webpage on the RP’s Rangelands Gateway (https://rangelandsgateway.org) to maintain digital content including four quick start guides focused on applying new technologies, conference materials, and additional resources; and (3) develop and deploy web-based courses focused on key technologies identified during the conference. This multi-faceted training program combined with strong outreach will extend learning opportunities and expand the ability of rangeland Extension professionals to share ideas and acquire new knowledge and skills that enhance their capacity to serve stakeholders.
Project objectives from proposal:
This project will provide multiple professional development opportunities focused on innovative technologies and program delivery approaches that can be used to increase the visibility of sustainable rangeland principles and systems. Using a train-the-trainer approach, rangeland Extension professionals from Arizona, Hawaii, and California with communications technology experts, the RP, and livestock producers, will achieve the following objective:
By the end of the project period, increase knowledge, skills, and technical capacity among rangeland Extension professionals to deliver scientific and technologically relevant rangeland education to ranchers to improve sustainability of the nation’s natural resources.
Success will be measured by surveying participants before and after the conference and following the web-based courses to document knowledge gained and what participants intend to do with that new knowledge. Programming will be adjusted at each training opportunity using results from surveys conducted at previous trainings.
The project team has the knowledge and experience to achieve this objective. The multi-disciplinary team has expertise in innovative technology and experience designing, hosting, and evaluating Extension workshops and webinars. PI Hall (Arizona) has helped develop real-time vegetation monitoring software and other innovative rangeland tools. Co-PI Thorne (Hawaii) organized a conference for Hawaii Extension professionals focused on novel technologies. Co-PI Roche (California) was instrumental in an award-winning webinar series focused on Extension innovations. Project manager Dalke (Arizona) has experience developing online resources and leading multi-state collaborative projects. Communications technology experts include Hudson (Washington, podcasting), Randolph (Michigan, agricultural virtual/augmented reality, videography), and Arispe (Oregon, technology curriculum development, geospatial mapping). Livestock producers will help identify technology trends, participate in trainings, and support the project promotion. The team will use knowledge and experience gained from past work to effectively disseminate information related to innovative technologies and program delivery approaches to better educate and train producers in the Western region.