Rangeland is one of the most abundant types of land, covering 47% of the Earth's surface. This land supports a great deal of wildlife, provides us with timber, water and other natural resources, and is used as foraging land for domesticated animals. According to the University of Wyoming's Range Science program, "rangelands are complex ecosystems known for their unpredictable weather, varying topography, and a wide array of soils, wildlife habitat, and forage for domestic and wild herbivores." The extreme weather patterns, poor soil and drainage and rough topography of rangelands mean that they are commonly used as a source of forage for domesticated animals, rather than for growing crops. Rangeland usually includes grasslands, savannas, tundra, and open woodland.
Texas Tech University's website says Range Science is, "the careful, sustainable use and management of range resources for the benefit of society." Range Scientists try to integrate the many needs of the people and the natural resources, including watershed and soil management, monitoring vegetation and managing wildlife.
The Academic Requirements
Range Science students will learn about the various issues affecting the rangelands and possible solutions to these issues. Students will take classes about climate, topography and geology, soils, plants and animals, watersheds and water resources, and land use issues. One of the biggest challenges in Range Science is integrating the needs of the different parties in the dispute; these parties may include ranchers, farmers, Natives, environmentalists, lawyers, and government officials.
Students may specialize in certain areas of Range Science. One of these concentrations is natural resource management, with an emphasis on issues in rangelands. Another focus is watershed management, which deals with water resource issues such as contamination and irrigation. Other Range Scientists may work in wildlife ecology, learning how to manage and protect the native wildlife in the rangeland while still meeting the needs of people who use the land. For example, wildlife ecologists may work with farmers and ranchers to see their views on re-releasing wolves into the plains of the United States. Students who pursue a concentration within the major will take focused classes in the discipline.
Your studies will probably include some time out in the field; most of the Range Science programs are held at schools in or near the rangeland. Field trips may include identification of wild flora and fauna; wilderness safety training; or water sampling.
Here are some courses that we've seen:
- Rangeland Habitat Management
- Rangeland Reclamation and Improvement
- Wildland Watershed Management
- Grazing Ecology and Management
- Functional Ecology of Arid Land Plants
- Diet of Free-Ranging Ruminants
- Managing Ecological Implications of Herbivory
- Intro to Soil Science
- Forest Management and Ecology
- Recreation Ecology
- Animal Behavior
According to the University of Wyoming's website; "Rangeland resource managers spend much of their time working outside, but [they may] also work in the office. Many hours are spent communicating with people." Range Scientists must be able to do a wide variety of activities. They may be responsible for land and resource surveys, vegetation management, ranch and farm planning, economic analyses, and sustainable remediation of damaged lands. Scientists that work mostly outside should expect a physically demanding job. Sometimes, they have to hike deep into areas without roads or work in inclement weather conditions.
Range Scientists can work in the public, private or government sectors. Many of them work for Federal or State government agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. or State Forest Service, or the U.S. Geological Survey. Some Range Scientists work in private industry as consultants. They can also work in other natural resource management jobs, such as environmental consulting, disturbed land reclamation, and resource surveying.
Range Scientists in the U.S. work almost exclusively in the western states, where most of the rangeland is located. According to the Bureau of Labor, "a bachelor's degree in range management or range science is the usual minimum educational requirement for range managers; graduate degrees usually are required for teaching and research positions." Recent graduates usually work in a team under the supervision of their superiors. They usually work a lot outside. Once they become more experienced or get higher degrees, Range Scientists can obtain management positions where they have oversight of an area of land.
Here are some job titles that we've seen, including some of the organizations that offer them, all of which included a requirement for experience in Range Science:
- Range Management Specialist (Bureau of Land Management)
- Soil Conservationist, Grazing (Natural Resource Conservation Service)
- Range Conservationist, Plants (USDA Forest Service)
- Resource Officer (USDA Forest Service)
- Supervisory Range Technician (Bureau of Land Management)
- Range Aid/Technician (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
- Heritage Resource Management & Protection (Parks Canada)
- Field Operations Supervisor (Province of British Columbia)
- Project Manager - Contaminated Land (Lawson Search Associates, Ltd.)
- Environmental Project Managers (ADAS)
- Brigham Young University, Range Science
- Forage Information Systems
- Idaho Rangeland Resources Comission
- Leave No Trace
- National Tribal Environmental Council
- New Mexico State University, Department of Animal and Range Sciences
- Province of British Columbia
- Society for Range Management Discussion Board
- Texas Tech University, Rangeland Resources
- U.S. Bureau of Labor, Statistics
- U.S. Bureau of Land Management
- University of Arizona, School of Renewable Natural Resources, Rangeland & Forest Resources Program
- University of Wyoming, Rangeland Ecology & Watershed Management