Monday, January 10, 2011

Thesis Interest Statement

Following is the statement I had to write for my Graduate Research class to prepare myself, and familiarize the professors with my topic, for writing my proposal. That begins this week. By this Saturday I will have a draft of the introduction to my proposal written, with the final due next Saturday. Writing this simple 200 word statement took a lot of effort. I did not realize that I had to narrow down my topic so much. I have been so used to focusing my writing on wild horses, but now I have to focus more on the sage grouse. I knew I had switched my subject from fertility control impacts on herd behavior to wild horse and cattle grazing on sage-grouse habitat, but it had not clicked with me that I now needed to switch my writing to focus on them

If anyone reading this knows about sage grouse, please make sure I am getting my facts right in the upcoming posts. While I have 5 years of built up knowledge about horses, I now quickly have to digest the information about sage grouse without much time to chew on it. ….

Tentative Title: Effects of feral horse and cattle grazing on Greater Sage-grouse Habitat in Southeastern, Oregon

Feral horses, cows, and the Greater sage-grouse share the same habitat in many places of the shrub-steppe. Horses on public lands are federally protected under the Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971 to be managed as an "integral part of the natural system." There is still little known about their interactions with some native wildlife. The lands they roam are also mandated for multiple uses by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976. This includes the highly controversial use of livestock grazing. Then there is the Greater sage-grouse, a declining species on the rangelands these large omnivores use.

Sage-grouse need large swaths of sagebrush habitat for forage and nesting sites. Though there is no empirical data to support it, it is concluded that grazing has an impact. In order to minimize this, it must be determined which grazer is doing more damage.  Between horses and cattle, this is a highly controversial topic.

By conducting vegetation surveys throughout the summer, I aim to fill a data gap and answer this question:  Is it feral horses or cows that have more impact on sage-grouse habitat on Riddle Mountain in southeastern Oregon?

.....My thesis proposal will build from this. And, subsequently, my proposal will be the foundation on which I will build my thesis!


  1. Jessie. Great posts. My undergraduate biology professor is a sage-grouse expert. She actually discovered (helped discover?) a new species - the Gunnison Sage Grouse - in Colorado. I bet she has some published studies out there. Jessica Young is her name and she's at Western State College of Colorado. The GSG is a candidate for ESA protection and there's been a Gunnison Sage Grouse Working Group in the Gunnison Basin for about 12 years. Also, WildEarth Guardians probably have lots of sage grouse info. Your project sounds awesome!

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