“Sagebrush grasslands cover expansive areas of the western United States and provide critical habitat to hundreds of vertebrate species,” says Dr. Brian Mealor, Director of the University of Wyoming’s (UW) Research and Extension Center in Sheridan, Wyoming. But this ecosystem—often referred to as the “sagebrush sea”—is changing.
Mealor identifies non-native grasses, predominantly downy brome, or cheatgrass, as a primary ecological threat to the sagebrush grassland ecosystem. “These species can reduce biological diversity, shift species composition, and dramatically alter disturbance regimes,” says Mealor, “essentially changing how these ecosystems function.” Land managers then face a complex set of ecological and socioeconomic challenges that reach far beyond simple weed control programs.
At a free talk at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West on Wednesday, September 26, 5:15 p.m., Mealor presents Sea Change: How Invasive Annual Grasses are Changing Sagebrush Grasslands. The final installment in this year’s “Draper After Dark” lecture series, the presentation takes place in the Center’s Coe Auditorium. Mealor explores why invasive grasses have such an impact, how research aids in strategizing management, and how Wyoming is approaching this resource challenge.
In addition to his role as director of UW’s Research and Extension Center in Sheridan, Mealor is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Plant Sciences. His research, teaching, and outreach programs focus on understanding long-term impacts of exotic plant invasion, and on restoring rangeland ecosystems negatively impacted by invasive plants. He was previously Director of Stewardship for the Nature Conservancy in Wyoming.
A past president of the Wyoming Section of the Society for Range Management (SRM), Mealor has chaired the international SRM’s rangeland invasive species committee, is on the board of the Western Society of Weed Science, and is currently a member of the greater sage-grouse range-wide wildfire and invasive species working group. He is the founder of the Wyoming Restoration Challenge, and a founding member of the Northeast Wyoming Invasive Grasses Working Group.
In 2013, Mealor was named outstanding young range professional by SRM, and, in 2015, outstanding early career weed scientist by the Western Society of Weed Science.
The Draper After Dark lecture series is organized by the Draper Natural History Museum and supported in part by Sage Creek Ranch and the Nancy-Carroll Draper Foundation. Visit centerofthewest.org/explore/greater-yellowstone-natural-history to learn more about the Center’s natural science programming, or contact the Draper’s Curatorial Assistant Bonnie Smith at [email protected] or 307-578-4020.
Find the Center’s full calendar of events at centerofthewest.org/calendar.
Since 1917, the award-winning Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, has devoted itself to sharing the story of the authentic American West. The Center is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. For more information, visit centerofthewest.org or the Center’s Facebook page. #100YearsMore