Rangelands

Master's Student

University of Nevada, Reno

A crucial aspect of animal production in the future will be to produce robust animals with improved production in challenging conditions, and who have a reduced impact on the environment. A rangeland environment provides additional challenges compared to intensive production systems, for which novel solutions are required. Dr Andrew Hess is seeking two Master’s students to help tackle these challenges.

Project 1: GPS Collars

GPS collars provide a way to collect individual-level data on our Rafter 7 sheep flock, which can be used to generate novel traits that will help us breed sheep that can thrive in a rangeland environment. GPS data can also be used to inform management practices to reduce the flock’s impact on the environment. This project will be focused on translating GPS data into traits that can be used in a rangeland environment and estimating the heritability of those traits. Traits of interest range from mothering ability to land utilization and risk of predation.

Project 2: Walk-over Weight Data

Routinely collecting weights provides us with a way to assess how sensitive an animal is to changes in its environment through fluctuations in its weight. In principle, a more robust animal will be less sensitive to changes in the environment and maintain high levels of production. However, collecting these data can be challenging when the animals are in a rangeland environment. We are currently developing an automated and portable system that can be used to routinely collect weight data on individuals. This also provides opportunities to assess mothering ability of ewes by collecting proximity data. This project will be focused on developing traits that capture measurements of resilience and mothering ability in our Rafter 7 sheep flock and estimating the heritability of those traits.

Job Duties:

  • Collecting, coding, and/or analyzing data
  • Conducting literature reviews
  • Presenting research at regional conferences
  • Writing reports and manuscripts
  • Coursework as required for the master’s degree

Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree in related field, e.g., biological sciences or statistics