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Circular Ranching: A Sustainable Approach to Land Management

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Sunny Courtwright Ranch Management Jeffrey Geider Ranch Management Ashley Titus Ranch Management
Advisor(s): Jeffrey Geider Ranch Management
Location: Second Floor, Table 5, Position 2, 1:45-3:45

Throughout the United States, industrial agriculture has created a set of traditional methods used to raise beef cattle. These traditional methods have large adverse effects on the environment as well as profitability. The producer who took part in this case study has been managing a beef cattle operation in North Texas since 1999. This rancher’s non-traditional, holistic land management and business approaches to finishing grass-fed cattle for his custom beef brand are drastically different than traditional methods. This single-case study examines the intersection of profitability and sustainability on a traditional beef cattle operation compared to a holistic non-traditional beef cattle operation. The data collected for this study includes interviews, a review of government documents, historical management documents, soil laboratory reports, and botanical and phenological reports. The findings from this study inform land management practices that boost both economic value and long-term environmental sustainability.

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Community Science in Ranch Management: A Catalyst for Undergraduate Connections to Sustainability

Type: Graduate
Author(s): Ashley Titus Ranch Management Jeff Geider Ranch Management Molly Weinburgh Interdisciplinary
Advisor(s): Jeff Geider Ranch Management Molly Weinburgh Interdisciplinary
Location: Second Floor, Table 6, Position 3, 1:45-3:45

Environmental socio-scientific topics are commonly taught in university courses. Interestingly, researchers, who have utilized climate change as a socio-scientific issue, have identified that following engagement in planned activities, students experienced an increase in content knowledge but could not view themselves as environmental agents of change (Ballantyne et al., 2016; Shepardson et al., 2011; Stevenson et al., 2014). Science literacy for environmental issues is vital. However, if students lack the ability to see themselves as being able to assist or have agency in the mitigation of environmental issues, these problems will persist. Community (citizen) science is an instructional method that falls under the experiential learning umbrella and has been explained as “the engagement of non-professionals in scientific investigations – asking questions, collecting data, or interpreting results” (Miller-Rushing et al., 2012, p. 285). McKinley et al. (2017) advocated that engagement with community science prepares and empowers participants for involvement in policy discussions and decisions and to educate and motivate their communities to participate in conservation. Applying this notion to community science projects centered on environmental issues suggests that students may be more likely to be motivated to engage in environmental action following engagement with community science activities. While there are a few research studies that have utilized community science to study undergraduates' motivations, gains in content knowledge, and interests in science; even fewer studies have been conducted in undergraduate courses to study undergraduates’ self-efficacy for science and environmental action. The participants in this study are science major and non-science major undergraduate students (18 years or older) enrolled in a Ranch Management core curriculum course at a university in the Southern region of the U.S. The primary objectives of this study are to identify the degree to which non-science majoring and science majoring undergraduate students’ self-efficacy for learning and doing science changes after engaging in a community science intervention. Preliminary findings indicate that both groups increased efficacy while differences were found. The findings from this research will contribute to informing educators in science departments about non-science and science majoring undergraduate student experiences with socio-scientific-based community science projects.

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Exploring Citizen Science in the Classroom: An Assessment of Undergraduate Classification Accuracy in a Ranch Management Course

Type: Graduate
Author(s): Morgan Washington Ranch Management Jeff Geider Ranch Management Ashley Titus Ranch Management
Advisor(s): Jeff Geider Ranch Management
Location: Basement, Table 6, Position 3, 1:45-3:45

Citizen (community) science platforms have become a crucial aspect of involving the public in scientific research. The platform Zooniverse particularly has grown to include a wide range of participants in the scientific community. Though there is a substantial amount of literature surrounding the efficacy of community science platforms, relatively few studies tackle applications in undergraduate education. This study investigates undergraduate student engagement with Zooniverse. Utilizing Zooniverse, participants analyzed the flowering of North Texas prairie species. Primary objectives include documenting the accuracy and speed of student identifications and comparing potential differences between historical botanical specimen images provided by the Botanical Research Institute of Texas and images collected from iNaturalist. These findings will help inform the usage of community science platforms in undergraduate education spaces and more particularly for non-science majors.

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