Woman talking to two men. All three are squatting in a field of low, dry grass, with farm buildings at the horizon.
Rangeland specialist Leslie Roche, center, is an associate professor of Cooperative Extension in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. She was part of a seven-state team recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for leadership in education.

Roche and multi-state team win NIFA Partnership Award

Online webinars continue to support rangeland resource conservation

Leslie Roche and fellow members of a seven-state team were recently honored with a Partnership Award for Multi-State Efforts, conferred by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Roche, an associate professor of Cooperative Extension in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences and a rangeland management specialist, was a member of the National Connections Team for Forest and Rangeland Resources. The team’s goal was to create education and networking opportunities for educators from land-grant universities that would translate into more effective learning about renewable resources for the people they serve.

Just as the COVID-19 pandemic was shutting down in-person education, the interdisciplinary team created an interactive, web-based conference series showing innovative ways to teach others about preserving and improving resources in forests, rangelands and grasslands. The webinars were recorded and can be seen at https://globalrangelands.org/rreasp/webinars. In addition, the team developed online forums in which webinar participants can continue to share ideas and methodologies, and collaborate around the critical issues they face.

The problem they were trying solve: Many Extension professionals had developed effective programs to address strategic issues locally, but these successes were little known outside of their respective institutions.

Webinars have global impact

Leslie Roche
Associate Professor of Cooperative Extension Leslie Roche

The team developed nine webinars featuring 26 Extension and outreach professionals. People attending the live webinars came from academia, public agencies, and private natural resource services from across the U.S. and around the world. “We had participants from Australia, Spain, Guatemala, Brazil, Columbia, Slovakia, Canada and Jordan,” the team reported. “The knowledge, skills and connections gained by Extension participants will help them better serve stakeholders, contributing to longer-term outcomes.”

In conferring the Partnership Award, NIFA noted the teams’ “innovative programming” and the webinars’ “national and global appeal. Additionally, the webinar series (was) influential, with participants indicating that they had learned ways to enhance their own programming,” NIFA reported.

The multi-state team was led by Mark Thorne (University of Hawaii-Manoa) and Barb Hutchinson (Rangelands Partnership/University of Arizona). In addition to Roche, the team includes Kris Tiles (University of Wisconsin), Retta Bruegger (Colorado State University), Adam Downing (Virginia Tech), Sheila Merrigan (Rangelands Partnership/University of  Arizona), Martha Monroe (University of Florida), Dave Bogner (University of Arizona), Elise Gornish (University of Arizona).

The webinars were developed as part of the federal Renewable Resources Extension Act. The broader issues addressed by the legislation are climate change and challenges in forests, rangelands and grasslands, wildlife and fish programs, and the economics of environmental resources.

Team members continue to work together to build on the project, Roche said.

Related links

The award-winning webinar series developed by Roche and the team is, “Strengthening RREA Programing Through Enhanced Connections: A Web-based Conference Series.”

Media Resources

Trina Kleist, tkleist@ucdavis.edu, (530) 754-6148 or (530) 601-6846

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Cooperative Extension