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SDSU Extension professionals win range management awards

February 12, 2024
Posted in Range
Jameson Brennan

BROOKINGS, S.D. – Two SDSU Extension experts have received awards from the Society for Range Management for their contributions to range science education and outreach. 

Jamie Brennan, assistant professor and SDSU Extension Livestock Grazing Specialist, received the society’s Outstanding Young Range Professional Award and Patricia (Pat) Johnson, a professor emerita of range science, received the Sustained Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Society for Range Management is an international professional organization for those “who manage, conserve and enjoy rangelands.” The awards were presented during the society’s annual meeting from Jan. 28 to Feb. 1, 2024, in Sparks, Nevada. 

Brennan is one of three young professionals nationally to be named Outstanding Young Range Professional, in recognition of Brennan’s contributions to rangeland research, Extension outreach and education, and the Society for Range Management itself. 

“Jamie is a leader in the development and use of technologies that are resulting in rapid advancement of our understanding of livestock grazing behavior and distribution,” the society wrote in its award announcement. 

Those technologies include GPS collars, precision feeders, accelerometers and remote sensing. At the SDSU Cottonwood Field Station, Brennan and his colleagues are working on virtual fencing and real-time measurements of methane emissions, weight gain, and water consumption by grazing livestock. Brennan is also researching the use of technology to remotely measure water levels in livestock tanks.

“Jamie Brennan is an up-and-coming rising star in the range management profession,” said Sandy Smart, professor and SDSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Senior Program Leader. “Jamie has the unique ability to understand data science, computer programming, electronics and rangeland ecology. Jamie and his colleagues are going to propel the technology revolution in rangeland ecology and management.”

In addition to serving as vice president and president for the South Dakota chapter of the society, Brennan is a member of the Society for Range Management Endowment Committee, Advisory Council and the Livestock Foraging Behavior Committee. 

“It’s very humbling to receive this award and have a lot of wonderful folks out there who have helped and supported my career and our efforts,” Brennan said.

Professional headshot
Patricia Johnson

Johnson, who retired in 2019, received the Sustained Lifetime Achievement Award. 

An emeritus/emerita designation is a lifetime title honoring a retired faculty or academic administrative staff member as someone who demonstrated a distinguished professional career and significant contributions to the university.

A trailblazer in the field, Johnson was one of the first five women in the world to earn a doctorate in range science/ecology and the second woman in the world to be hired into a range science faculty position at a university.

“I'm very honored. I loved my career working with students and doing research on South Dakota rangelands,” Johnson said. “It is especially rewarding that my colleagues found my career worthy of this award.”

Over a 33-year career, Johnson published 72 peer-reviewed papers, a book chapter, three videos, made over 130 presentations nationally and internationally, and secured millions in research funds to support and advance the field of rangeland science. She said she also had many opportunities to be involved in national and international rangeland issues through the Society for Range Management.

As a professor, she taught hundreds of students while mentoring 15 doctoral and master’s students and serving on more than 40 student committees. The Society for Range Management wrote in its award announcement that Johnson’s impact is readily apparent in the “overwhelming willingness” of her peers and former students to write letters supporting her award nomination. 

“The ability to measure one’s legacy can be found in the impact they have had on other people’s lives,” the Society for Range Management writes. “One of the greatest joys in her career is seeing the impacts her former students have had on rangeland management. … Dr. Johnson truly embodies someone who has had a sustained lifetime achievement to the field of range science and is very deserving of this award.” 

In his letter of support for her nomination, Smart noted Johnson’s impact on his own career. As a new assistant professor, Smart said he came to rely on Johnson’s guidance. She mentored Smart in his teaching and research work, providing course material, answering questions and helping him establish new projects. 

“I greatly appreciated her kindness when I struggled in the early days of teaching and helped me make connections with great people in SRM,” Smart wrote. “I have fond memories of those early years and her dedication to helping students and young faculty succeed.”

Brennan also considers Johnson a mentor, crediting her and his colleagues as the reason for his success and ability to advance his own work and research. 

“We have a wonderful group of colleagues we work with out here,” he said. “I’m just very grateful for all the folks I’ve worked with, the mentors and colleagues like Pat who have built up a program that’s leveraged a lot of their expertise.”

Johnson said she herself was mentored by others who saw her potential even when she doubted herself. Mentoring others was a natural progression as she adopted that way of interacting with others. She has continued that in retirement through a Society for Range Management program that helps early career range management professionals be successful.

“I love seeing people succeed, especially my students and colleagues,” she said. “And I think we all win when we help each other.”

For more information, contact Jameson Brennan, assistant professor and SDSU Extension Livestock Grazing Specialist.