Amanda Gearhart has joined the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources as an assistant professor, focusing her research and teaching on restoring Nevada rangelands.
As a part of the College’s Experiment Station unit, and building on some past research done by the University, Gearhart is conducting a research project in Washoe Valley using sheep to reduce weeds on land acquired by the Bureau of Land Management. Since this area is overgrown with various weed species, Gearhart is hoping introducing sheep to the area will control the weed growth while avoiding overgrazing. During this project, she also wants to focus on genetic components, such as looking at which sheep are eating certain weeds and why, to gather data for future weed control in the valley.
In addition to research, Gearhart is also preparing to teach two courses in the Department of Agriculture, Veterinary & Rangeland Sciences, which will include a restoration ecology course. These courses will give Gearhart the chance to share her knowledge of conducting rangeland assessment and monitoring with students.
Before joining the University, Gearhart worked for the Bureau of Land Management as a wild horse and burro specialist. While conducting this work, she monitored the conditions of water sources, sagebrush and land where wild horses and burros lived in Western rangelands. She also hosted weekend-long courses for the public to learn the basics of rangeland science and wild horse management, which inspired her to pursue a teaching position.
“I really enjoyed the work I was doing with wild horses and burros, but I wanted to focus more on the research and teaching aspects of the job,” Gearhart said. “I’m excited to be at the University to conduct some research that will help solve big land management problems in Nevada.”
Gearhart is also hoping to conduct research on ricegrass restoration by looking at seed coatings. Using different kinds of seed coatings will either delay or hasten germination depending on the soil conditions. Her goal is to help Indian ricegrass, a native grass that is notoriously difficult to germinate and establish, grow to provide food for wildlife and range livestock.