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UW Ag Student Wins National Range Competition

February 18, 2009
Sarah Hanlon

University of Wyoming College of Agriculture senior Sarah Hanlon, of Cheyenne, placed first among 171 students from throughout the United States and Canada in a rangeland management competition.

Hanlon earned an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., after winning top honors among students from 23 colleges and universities in the annual Society for Range Management's (SRM) Undergraduate Range Management Exam (URME).

The test was during the SRM's 62nd annual meeting Feb. 8-12 in Albuquerque, N.M. The meeting attracted 1,600 people from throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico, including nearly 400 college students. Two UW teams placed in the top five in two events at the meeting.

"The competition at the top was very close, and experience and knowledge as a young range professional enabled Sarah to outdistance the others in the URME event," said her academic adviser at UW, Jim Waggoner, an associate professor in the College of Agriculture's Department of Renewable Resources.

"The test is extremely difficult," said the team's coach, Jeff Beck, an assistant professor in the Department of Renewable Resources. "Students interpret scientific tables and figures relating to rangeland management. They calculate grazing capacities and vegetative attributes such as cover and rangeland production. They have to be very familiar with rangeland ecosystems from hot deserts to sagebrush steppe to short and tall grass prairie to alpine tundra and others."

Beck added, "Winning this competition is a mark about everything Sarah has learned and digested here at UW and beyond."

Hanlon said, "I have taken this test all four years I've been at UW, and this was one of the hardest. There were 100 questions based on grazing management, inventory and assessment of grazing lands, ecology, multiple use, rangeland types and range improvements."

Hanlon is majoring in rangeland ecology and watershed management. After graduating this spring, she will join the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Springfield, Colo., as a rangeland management specialist.

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) awarded Hanlon an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for placing first in the URME competition. The trip is this summer, and Hanlon will meet with top officials from the USFS and other land management agencies, and she will visit with a number of congressional delegates and tour the D.C. area. The trip emphasizes the federal government's role in managing the nation's rangeland resources.

Posted on Wednesday, February 18, 2009

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