New range and forage specialist appointed at UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center | TSLN.com

New range and forage specialist appointed at UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center

Dr. Mitchell B. Stephenson will join the faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Panhandle Research and Extension Center next spring as a range and forage management specialist. Courtesy photo

Dr. Mitchell B. Stephenson will join the faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Panhandle Research and Extension Center next spring as a range and forage management specialist.

Stephenson's appointment, announced by Dr. Jack Whittier, Research and Extension Director at the Panhandle R&E Center, is one of several recent personnel changes in the Panhandle Extension District in which faculty vacancies are being filled and positions realigned to meet clientele needs.

Stephenson is scheduled to start his range/forage position effective April 1, 2015. He will be responsible for conducting research and extension programs focused on sustainable use and management of rangelands, integration of annual and perennial forage crops to supplement range, ecological implications of grazing, and sustainable livestock production on rangelands.

As part of a multidisciplinary team at the Panhandle Center, he will partner with other UNL faculty and various organizations, agencies and advisory groups.

Whittier said, "We are extremely pleased to attract Mitch back to western Nebraska. Mitch spent his early years in the Sandhills, near Hyannis, so he is very familiar with this region. Since then he has been trained in some of the premier range management training programs in the country. We feel fortunate that he will be joining our team here at the Panhandle Center."

Stephenson said, "I grew up in western Nebraska and I'm excited to return. I look forward to working with livestock producers and range managers on research and extension projects that can improve production and sustainability of rangelands."

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Stephenson has been a graduate research assistant at New Mexico State University since 2011, while working on his Ph.D. He is scheduled to receive his doctoral degree in December 2014. His research has focused on grazing systems, timing of grazing, targeted livestock grazing, cattle distribution, low-stress herding, and other related topics.

He received a master's degree in range science in 2010 from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he also served as a graduate research assistant from 2008-2010. His professional experience includes working as a range ecologist at the Conservation Research Center at Jackson, Wyo., and as a range technician at Jackson and in Arizona prior to that time.

Meanwhile, two other faculty positions at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center are expected to be filled within weeks, according to Dr. Jack Whittier, director of Research and Extension for the Panhandle District. Candidates are currently being interviewed for dryland cropping systems specialist and water management specialist positions.

Staff realignments involve an administrative position at the Panhandle Center and several Extension professionals at three county-based Extension offices in the northern Panhandle.

In other personnel news, Panhandle Center Associate Director Jim Schild's appointment has been formalized as permanent. Schild had been interim associate director since 2013, following the departure of former director Linda Boeckner. He will split his time between the associate director position and his current role as extension educator. Schild has been an Extension Educator in the Scotts Bluff County office.

Extension Educator Gary Stone has taken over some of Schild's former educator duties, including the Scotts Bluff County Master Gardener Program and horticulture advice.

In the northern Panhandle, several new appointments were announced recently among the educators and assistants in Sioux, Dawes and Sheridan counties:

Marlena Griesse as 4-H/youth development extension assistant for Sioux County;

Melissa Matulka as 4-H/youth development extension assistant for Sheridan County;

and Leah Gremm as Extension Educator for 4-H Youth Development for the northern Panhandle.

Earlier this year, Kelley J. Rice was appointed Extension Educator for 4-H Youth Development for Scotts Bluff and Morrill Counties, as well as Panhandle Extension District 4-H Coordinator.

Rounding out the newly hired personnel in the Panhandle District includes Meredith Bremer, Extension Educator in Beef Systems to be located in Rushville beginning in January 2015.

The Panhandle Extension District encompasses 16 counties in western and north-central Nebraska, including Banner, Blaine, Box Butte, Cherry, Cheyenne, Dawes, Deuel, Garden, Grant, Hooker, Morrill, Kimball, Scotts Bluff, Sheridan, Sioux, and Thomas counties.

Extension personnel at 12 county-based offices provide programming in Beef Systems, 4-H Youth Development, The Learning Child, Cropping Systems, Community Vitality, Nutrition and Health, and Water and Environment. The Panhandle R&E Center is the administrative hub, where more than a dozen faculty members conduct research.