By Jill Maxwell
In late September, 31 CNR students travelled to OX Ranch near Council, ID, to carry on a CNR Range Studies tradition.
What tradition? Rangeland monitoring!
They collected vegetation samples, recorded grassland conditions, and documented invasive weeds. Their data will become part of a vegetation data set that was begun more than 30 years ago by the OX Ranch in collaboration with the Forest Service. CNR students took the project over about 15 years ago. They make the trip to the ranch every five years, visiting the same 30 vegetation plots and recording what they find.
“It is quite a project that involves plant identification, technologies such as GPS, and good old walking for miles and miles,” said Range Professor Karen Launchbaugh. “The work contributes to the sustainable management of the ranch and helps students observe changing landscapes up close and personal.”
The project is more than a training exercise for students. Such an extensive, long-term collection of data can also help CNR faculty assess how central Idaho vegetation may be changing in response to climate change. Scientists can see how plant communities have changed over time.
Now that they’re back home, students will prepare a report for the ranch managers. They will also travel to a Coordinated Resource Management Planning (CRMP) Committee meeting to present their data.
Launchbaugh says the monitoring project is a good experience for everyone involved. “The students do a great job and the ranch is very grateful for their service.”