Monday, November 22, 2010

SRM Spotlight: Roger Blew, Idaho Section

By Julia Workman, SRM Outreach Intern


Ecologist Roger Blew recently acquired his pilot’s license. He also owns half an airplane, which “seems to be the expensive half,” he laughs. Other pastimes include fly fishing, spending time with his dog, Bud, and—until recently—planning the Idaho Section SRM winter meeting.
Roger says joining SRM was a logical step when he began working with Stoller Corporation in Idaho 15 years ago and began work on sagebrush steppe ecosystems—the Society was “a natural fit for where I was in my career, and what I needed in the professional world,” he says. Of course, work in rangelands meant returning to old interests.
He grew up in Kansas and did his undergraduate and graduate studies in rangelands at Emporia State and Kansas State Universities, but his post doctoral work in forest systems at the University of Washington. His work with Stoller in sagebrush steppe ecosystems, after he finished his post doc, brought him back to the interests he had had when taking range classes in Kansas and later pursuing his Ph.D. in soil ecology at the University of Calgary.
Since joining Stoller Corporation and SRM upon completion of his post doc, Roger has served as the Idaho section newsletter editor for four or five years, and recently took over the duties of Idaho Section President at the section meeting, on November 11.
Roger believes that SRM has undergone some important changes since he joined—namely, the transition of the flagship journal from the Journal of Range Management to Rangeland Ecology and Management, an ecology-based publication more similar to the journal of 15 years ago and the associated emphasis of ecologists in the Society. He also notes that new demands have been placed on ranch managers as new values have been placed on rangelands, and says that SRM has made a positive move to become more applicable to broader society by accommodating those changing values. The range profession itself has changed as well, incorporating new technology and new emphases on grazing plans and assessments, NEPA documentation, and other office-related work. Field work is still a major component of managing rangelands, but different skill sets (such as understanding statistical models and new tools such as GIS and GPS) are gaining more importance. These and other factors have forced managers to look at landscapes as a whole and highlighted the need for interagency cooperation and management for multiple uses.
When it comes down to it, Roger sees and strongly supports a movement to place greater emphasis on plant ecology in the Society. He argues that it is the basis for rangeland management: as he has heard from ranchers, “we’re not raising beef, we’re raising grass.” He also likes that rangeland management is now incorporating such ideas from plant ecology as state and transition models. To Roger, the exchange of ideas—between people and groups—is extremely important, and one of the aspects of SRM he has found most valuable in his career. This goes hand in hand with the opportunity for continuing education through SRM, important because “learning doesn’t stop when we graduate [from] college”—we need to update our knowledge as the science changes. He says he appreciates being able to learn from other SRM members’ experiences, both successes and failures.
On that note, he advises that younger SRM members can get the most out of their membership by getting involved, especially by attending—and participating in—meetings at all levels. The URME, Range Cup, and Plant ID contests, among others, are great ways of making a student’s name known to potential employers. Plus, the meetings provide opportunities to gain exposure to current issues, and gain valuable knowledge from the older generations. He comments that the way SRM includes students in the Society through its undergraduate education, involvement, and mentoring emphases is unique among the societies of which he is a member.
Roger joked at the Idaho section business meeting, that a good deal of his success in planning the meeting was due to “good people.” After reiterating this point in his interview, he added, “First rate people hire first-rate people; second-rate people hire third-rate people: hire people who are better than you!”

1 comment:

Aleta Rudeen,Outreach and Leadership Development said...

Roger - thank you for organizing such an excellent Idaho Section SRM Meeting! I found it informative and very worthwhile.