REU Site: Restoring cattle ranches for sustainable land and water resources

Program Overview


This REU Site award to Tarleton State University, located in Stephenville, TX, supported the training of 10 students for 10 weeks during the summers of 2018 – 2020 (extended through the summer of 2021 due to COVID-19 related disruptions). Research was conducted both on the main campus and at Timberlake Biological Field Station, located south of Goldthwaite in Mills County, TX. The scientific focus was on environmentally related issues associated with converting a working cattle ranch into a long-term biological field station. Ranching was once a widespread and profitable business with little environmental focus. However, increasing emphasis on sustainable land and water use has helped reshape how cattle ranchers manage their resources to maximize their gain while minimizing their impact on surrounding ecological systems.

REU students had opportunities to conduct scientific research in the areas of aquatic ecology, conservation biology, environmental biology, environmental chemistry, environmental engineering, environmental sociology, geospatial analyses, herpetology, hydrogeology, ichthyology, landscape management, limnology, ornithology, paleoecology, parasitology, plant ecology, restoration ecology, sustainability, water quality, and wildlife management.

A total of 30 students, primarily from schools with limited research opportunities, were trained in the program. By heavily recruiting from 2-year and 4-year Hispanic Serving Institutions, the REU Site served as a pathway for talented, underrepresented students to transition from 2-year colleges to 4-year universities and from 4-year universities to graduate school. Students learned how research is conducted, and many presented the results of their work at scientific conferences.