Tuesday, December 28, 2010

SRM Spotlight: Dave Pellatz, Wyoming Section

By Julia Workman, SRM Outreach Intern

Dave Pellatz of Wyoming says that his work in rangelands is his third or fourth different major career. After receiving degrees in both petroleum engineering and geological engineering as well as owning a couple of different businesses, he has returned to the rural setting he loves.

Dave grew up on a ranch, and his family and in-laws both have ranches in the Thunder Basin grasslands. He says that his career switch allowed him to return to the Thunder Basin area and raise a family there. Dave adds that “if you’re going to live in a place where you’re very distant from jobs, you have to be creative in what you do.” His creativity led him to work on contract as Project Manager for the Thunder Basin Grasslands Prairie Ecosystem Association and as Range Manager for the Thunder Basin Grazing Association. He explains that the skill sets he gained in his other positions have transferred readily since much of what he does pertains to management. However, he does want to gain a better understanding of the ecosystems in which he works. To that end, he is now working on a Master of Science degree in Rangeland Ecosystem Science through Colorado State University.

This learning process is also where SRM came into play three years ago. Dave explains that since joining, he has used the Society “to accelerate the learning curve to get a broader base of information in specific range topics. The ongoing conferences and the print publications (with back issues online) have been most valuable to him. He adds that Rangeland Ecology and Management suits his needs, but likes that Rangelands is also offered as a more accessible resource for those who aren’t necessarily interested in research.

One division in SRM that Dave sees as less positive is the generation gap. Dave notes that universities are successful to some extent in facilitating the transfer of knowledge to younger generations. However, he believes SRM might be able to participate in this transfer by helping to encourage this at the agency level. Largely, Dave says, the success of any mentoring program depends on who potential mentors have available to teach. Too often, information from people with on-the-ground experience is not captured and does not have the impact it should. Dave says that there would be value in doing interviews with members with many years of experience so that some of their knowledge could be recorded.

Dave sees a broad interest base in rangelands and rangeland management. The use of technology in the field allows information to reach people from many diverse backgrounds. He argues that without a strong online presence, the Society will find it difficult to compete in upcoming years. He would like to see SRM continuing to develop and support the use of technology to share information. “Don’t replace what’s tried and true,” he says, “but if you don’t stay ahead of trends you’ll become irrelevant.”

Dave cautions that it can be dangerous to think that one understands all the interrelationships in the very complex system in which we work. His advice to land managers is to be sure that management decisions are accompanied by continuous monitoring efforts, which help to embrace complexity and the unknowns in the system. “Tread carefully with the tools you employ,” he says. “Know your environment and the parameters before you go out and try to change the world.”

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