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Vanessa Schroeder, Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center Senior Faculty Research Assistant 1

Vanessa in the field with her pup Chaco.

You'll find Vanessa Schroeder working at the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center as a Senior Faculty Research Assistant 1. Harney County became home for Vanessa in 2013 when she began working with The Nature Conservancy. Three years later, in 2016, Oregon State University Extension Service became her employer. "I work at the intersection of rangeland issues and wildlife to support ranching communities. I do a lot of extension and outreach but I also do a lot of research and all of it is to serve and meet the needs of a variety of stakeholders. Broadly my stakeholders are anyone who works in or are interested in rangeland management wildlife populations: public, state, federal land management agencies, ranchers, nonprofit organizations, and conservation groups. I work in service to everyone interested in managing or supporting Eastern Oregon rangelands, but part of my position is to focus on supporting rural ranching communities." With a master’s of science degree in wildlife science through OSU’s fisheries and wildlife department Vanessa was hired because of concerns for wildlife on public and private lands namely sage grouse and other sagebrush associated species that can include: pronghorn, pygmy rabbit, sagebrush vole, sagebrush sparrow, Brewer’s sparrow, and sage thrasher.

During the field season (latter part of spring, summer and early fall) Vanessa spends time "out and about" on the range hiking or on an ATV looking at projects, for example, a project working with BLM assessing the effects of juniper expansion and its removal to understand potential  benefits for multiple different wildlife species. Another day in that week might be turning cows into a pasture, and assessing their utilization and then seeing what the effects they have on the sagebrush ecosystem and sagebrush obligate wildlife species. "I absolutely love being out on the range; I love living and working out here because we live in such a wonderful, unique ecosystem with such expanses of beautiful country.

Another aspect of Vanessa's work is working with a variety of different groups to develop decision support tools or other products that might be helpful to serve a variety of stakeholders. The Rangelands Special Issue, Rangeland: Changing with the Range, published just a few weeks ago is a great example of the collaborating work Vanessa does to develop "decision support tools". "A lot of the collaboration I've done hasn't been formal HDP collaboration, as of yet. But I would say, everything I do is a collaboration." Take this Rangelands Special Issue which emerged from the December 2020 Invasive Annual Grass Workshop. Vanessa was instrumental in making this special issue happen. "This special issue really helped us as a large group across many agencies identify what are we doing well, what are the needs and are those needs funding based, or are they social problems, political problems or are there research gaps. So by plugging into the wildfire collaborative I hope to see a couple things: for my extension and outreach side of my work what capacity and support I can lend to this effort and are there research needs where it would be helpful for OSU to play a nonpartisan role."

Between her field work, research, and engagement with multiple stakeholders Vanessa's role as a research assistant makes for full days. When not at work, Vanessa's love for the range translates into how she spends her free time: "I enjoy a lot of getting out in the rangeland with my husband and our dog; we do a lot of hiking, backpacking and exploring through all of eastern Oregon."