In response to an increased importance being placed upon STEM and the growing effort to provide outdoor educational opportunities that many youth are lacking, the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension created Range Rocks!, an integrated extension education program that provides technical and field experience for high school students attracted to rangeland ecology and management
Range Rocks! students have been involved in a variety of outdoor education projects that have included building wildlife escape ramps for livestock water tanks, collecting data used in the “PhyGrow” virtual landscape model and attending several natural resource camps and field days throughout Arizona. In addition to providing hands on learning opportunities, Range Rocks! has recently debuted the first installment of distance learning resources available to help students across the country learn more about range science. These Prezi’s, produced by the University of Arizona, introduce students to the science behind Near Infra-Red Light and go on to explain how this technology is used in range science and the various applications in which it can be used. The Range Rocks! program plans on producing several more educational resources such as these in order to share the importance of range studies, even to those not living in an area where rangelands are prevalent.
University of Arizona’s V Bar V Range Program staff Doug Tolleson, Chris Bernau, and Lisa Page shared range science technology with hundreds of excited youth and adults at two Arizona SciTech Festival events this past spring in the Verde Valley. The Arizona SciTech festival offers statewide expos and workshops that promotes and informs Arizonans of all ages about how STEM will drive our state for the next 100 years.
Although much or Arizona’s rangeland (privately owned or government lease allotments) are managed by ranchers running traditional outfits, scientific data collection is becoming more commonplace as ranchers strive to take better care of the land and preserve it for future use. The V Bar V staff demonstrated some of these technologies and explained their importance to data collection at the Verde Valley Sci-Tech event.
- NIRS (Near Infra-Red Spectroscopy) machine is a useful diagnostic tool that measures the reflectance or absorbance of light on a given sample, which can tell us if a range animal is receiving the proper nutritional requirements
- Range scientists monitor vegetation using transects and monitoring frames, which allows land managers to accurately assess the quantity of vegetation on their land, allowing them to determine forage availability for livestock and wildlife.
- Attendees were also shown simple ways to identify common range plants
- Explained the importance of precipitation data to aid in effective range management. Also explained how a tipping bucket rain gauge worked, the technology used in precipitation data collection, and explained how anyone could be a “citizen scientist” by recording their rain gauge amounts and reporting them on a variety of databases used by scientists for research
- Explained soil analysis using a soil particle separator (or sifter). Knowing the type of soil in a given area allows land managers to address soil erosion and run off concerns and have an accurate idea of what types of vegetation may be in a given area.
Drought Management Planning Workshops
The V Bar V Range Staff hosted five Drought Management Planning workshops this past spring and summer throughout Arizona. As part of the Western Risk Management Education grant, extension staff met with local ranchers and state and federal land managers in order to learn more about drought management tools that are available and discuss indicators and actions that will help producers to better prepare their operations for drought. As a follow up, extension staff met with some ranchers to help them create their own customized drought management plan.
Ranch Explorers Days
V Bar V Ranch Explorers Day is held annually on the fourth Saturday of August. The public is invited to Mahan Park, near Happy Jack, Arizona, for a day of educational activities, presentations, displays, and the highlight of the day -- a V Bar V beef barbeque lunch with Dutch oven cobbler for dessert. All activities, lunch and bus transportation from Sedona, Cottonwood, Camp Verde or Prescott are included in the registration fee. The 2015 Ranch Explorers Days activities included:
- 20 Years: A Look Back
A celebration of the accomplishments of the V Bar V Ranch from its acquisition by the University of Arizona to present
- Range Monitoring
Tools and Techniques and Historical Data on Ranges
- Ranching Techniques and Technologies Over the Years
- Ranch Photos Past and Present
- Educational Exhibits and Booths
- Pit BBQ Lunch
- Petting Zoo
- Board Branding
- Bluegrass Music
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