University of Wisconsin–Madison


The grazing public lands project brings together stakeholders from UW-Madison, WDNR, private graziers and public land users.  Below you will find key people engaged in the research portion housed at UW-Madison:

Graduate Students

Jacob Grace
Jacob grew up on a rotationally-grazed beef farm in northwest Missouri, and he is now pursuing master’s degrees in both in Agroecology and Life Sciences Communication at UW-Madison. He is investigating the response of shrubs and forages to rotational grazing in combination with other management treatments.








Greta Landis
Greta grew up in Maine, and completed her Agroecology M.S. on the socio-environmental relationships of grazing research partnerships. She is continuing her research as a PhD student in Environment & Resources, developing a set grazing decision support tools to help plan and facilitate grazing management under different ecological conditions.







Alden Dirks
Alden is interested in fungal biology, especially fungi that interact beneficially with crop plants. With Dr. Randy Jackson, Alden is investigating how soil-dwelling, mutualistic fungi in temperate, cool-season grasslands respond to herbivory.










Laura Judge
Fostering the farm as a productive, low-input ecosystem interests Laura, especially through the use of rotational grazing. Working under Dr. Mark Renz, she monitors change in pasture plant communities over time to explore cattle as a tool in the restoration of Wisconsin’s public grasslands.

Past Students

Sam Asper
Sam is an Agroecology master’s candidate, originating from central Minnesota. She is studying bird species’ abundance on continuously and rotationally grazed pastures at Buena Vista Wildlife Area. She hopes to help understand the relationship between grazing management practices and their effect on the bird community.

Robinson_Courtney_2015_crop (1)_compressed
Courtney Robinson
Courtney hails from Indiana and is a dual-masters candidate in Agroecology and Agricultural and Applied Economics (expected August 2016). She is studying the price(s) at which Wisconsin beef producers are willing to rent public land for rotational grazing, and the challenges and opportunities associated with such a partnership.

Faculty and Staff


Randy Jackson (Project Leader):
Dr. Jackson is a professor in the Department of Agronomy and chair of the Agroecology program.  He studies the structure and function of managed, semi-natural, and natural grassland ecosystems. This work includes landscape-level nutrient exchange, ecosystem-level carbon and nutrient cycling, and plant community responses to disturbance. His work also focuses on the scientific basis for agroecology, farms as ecosystem units, cellulosic biofuel cropping systems, and grazing effects on pasture and prairie.


Mark Renz
Dr. Renz is an associate professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Agronomy.  He researches weed biology and management in perennial cropping systems as well as natural areas. Current efforts revolve around developing and evaluating novel management methods for weeds in these areas. Results are disseminated to stakeholders throughout the region to improve sustainability of these systems.


Mark Rickenbach
Mark is a professor, extension specialist, and department chair at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Department of Forest & Wildlife Ecology. Mark’s research and extension program is in the areas of the social sciences and public policy as they relate to forests and natural ecosystems. His work covers three themes: (1) individual and collective decision-making, (2) the connection among people, communities, and landscape change, and (3) the implication and evaluation of public policy on behavior and ecosystem outcomes. In terms of extension, his broad goal is to increase knowledge of and discussion by policymakers, resource professional, landowners, and the public on forests and landscapes and the benefits they provide to individuals and society.


Christine Ribic
Dr. Ribic is a professor of Wildlife Ecology and unit leader, US Geological Survey, Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit.  Her research projects focus on conservation of grassland vertebrates in working agricultural landscapes; alternative energy production; and global climate change.


Alan Turnquist (Project Coordinator)
Alan is the Program Coordinator for the Agroecology Masters Program and is helping to coordinate all aspects of the grazing public lands project.  He is the main contact for the project, you can reach him at

Undergraduate Students








Lauren Jorgensen
Lauren is an undergraduate studying Agronomy and Community and Environmental Sociology. She has assisted the grazing project by developing promotional materials, performing fieldwork for the Renz lab, and completing various administrative tasks. In her studies, her objective is to analyze the interaction among people, policies, and the built environment – as well as the relationship between these interactions and a robust community food system.