Grazing ecology & livestock management
Kari’s interest in this topic began with her PhD work investigating the functional consequences of nutrient-rich “glade” hotspots that develop on the sites of abandoned traditional cattle corrals (“bomas”) throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa. Her research program now includes the impacts of livestock grazing on western rangelands, for example how livestock grazing can be compatible with sage-grouse conservation in the Great Basin. Current projects focus on ecosystem recovery following livestock removal in the Mojave Desert, as well as a USDA-NIFA funded project testing the compatibility of Criollo cattle with Colorado Plateau landscapes. Criollo are a desert-adapted heritage breed, smaller than standard English breeds, and we are exploring whether they may be an economically-viable tool for helping livestock producers manage range condition and mitigate effects of climate change.
Livestock vs. wildlife effects
Livestock and wild ungulates are almost always studied separately despite the fact that they co-occur in rangelands worldwide. Their individual ecological effects can differ considerably from one another, and, in combination, have surprising and unexpected consequences. Some of the lab’s research on this topic has taken place in the Kenya Long-term Exclosure Experiment (KLEE), a broad-scale replicated experiment that, within a single ecosystem, tests the separate and combined effects of cattle, meso-herbivore wildlife, and mega-herbivore wildlife. Other lab research is based in the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau, where we are using long-term livestock and wild ungulate exclosures to better understand relationships among elk, deer and cattle and their habitat, as well as how those ecological relationships are mediated by factors such as climate and soils.