Dianne Robinson has joined Texas A&M AgriLife as a research associate and manager of the Ecology and Natural Resource Teaching Area, ENTRA, also known as the Range Area, on Aug. 1.

Woman driving ATV in Range Area bordered by trees
Dianne Robinson took over the manager duties of the Texas A&M Ecology and Natural Resource Teaching Area, or Range Area. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Carrie Baker)

The position is part of the Department of Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences within the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“We are excited to have Dianne join the Department of Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management,” said Cliff Lamb, Ph.D., interim department head. “Her background and previous experiences made her a strong candidate, and we look forward to seeing the teaching area grow under her direction.”

Robinson brings with her a strong background in ecology and wildlife sciences. She earned her bachelor’s degree in wildlife ecology and management and biology from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2008. Robinson graduated from Texas A&M in 2013 with a master’s degree in wildlife and fisheries sciences.

Upon graduating, Robinson went to work for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, DNR, as the Milwaukee County wildlife biologist and Waukesha Area wildlife educator.

Experienced in wildlife education, outreach

During her time there, Robinson created and implemented a wildlife education program for traditional and non-traditional DNR audiences of all ages. She worked with local and regional stakeholders to build educational partnerships throughout Southeast Wisconsin.

She has also worked on various committees and communications teams to promote diversity and inclusion within the DNR, raise awareness for high-profile issues and promote policies relating to wildlife areas, prescribed fire and habitat management, among others.

Robinson said her previous experiences have prepared her well for this new role and she looks forward to the potential of enhancing outreach and engagement with students and the public.

“In my time with the DNR, outreach has become important to me,” Robinson said. “And this position with Texas A&M places an emphasis on education and interaction with future natural resource professionals.”

Will support research at the Range Area

In addition to education and outreach, Robinson will also be maintaining facilities and research equipment at the Range Area. She will be coordinating projects and overseeing the use and management of the property which remains a prominent resource for faculty and scientists looking to conduct research.

The Range Area provides a location for Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist to work close to the Texas A&M University campus. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

Five research projects are currently being conducted at the property. The projects range from rainfall interception to bird banding, wood duck nesting and insect inventories.

Hannah Blackburn, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research apiary inspector with the Texas Apiary Inspection Service, is sampling bee and wasp species in the area. Her work is part of a nationwide project in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. At the Range Area, Blackburn collects samples every two weeks from three on-site traps and mails them to Pennsylvania for processing. The Range Area has been a trapping location for the project since 2019.

“The project was recently extended to June of 2021, and we greatly appreciate the use of the Range Area,” Blackburn said.

A bird conservation project utilizes the facility annually. Simon Burton works with the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship Program, MAPS, coordinated by the Institute for Bird Populations.

“The MAPS program is a continent-wide collaboration between public agencies, non-governmental groups and individuals to assist the conservation of birds through demographic monitoring,” Burton said. “The MAPS bird banding study at the Range Area began in 2019 and runs from May through early August each year.”

Burton said that almost 250 scientific studies have used MAPS data as of 2020.

Among other AgriLife researchers working in the Range Area are Brad Wilcox, Ph.D., AgriLife Research ecohydrologist, and his doctoral student Shishir Basant, both at the  Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology. Wilcox and Basant are collecting data for a hydrology-related study.

Micky Eubanks, Ph.D., an AgriLife Research Fellow in the Department of Entomology, said that the facility is an important resource for his lab, which focuses on insect ecology.

Goal to expand public visibility, access to Range Area

While the Range Area has long served as a hub for faculty, students and scientists, Robinson said there is plenty of room for growth.

A primary goal for Robinson is to welcome more visitors to the Range Area and make it a well-known resource at Texas A&M.

“I think it’s important to expand use of the property,” Robinson said. “I would like to see the Range Area used more widely by the university and the general public.”

One way she hopes to do this is by making the property more visible and accessible, both physically and virtually.

Robinson mentioned updating signage and increasing the Range Area’s online presence as potential ways to bring awareness to the utility of the property.

She knows the Range Area holds potential and looks forward to coordinating with university faculty and researchers to maximize use of the property in the near future.

“It’s unique for a university to have a multi-purpose, outdoor teaching area on campus that students and professors from multiple disciplines can take advantage of,” Robinson said. “I’m looking forward to using my background and experiences to make the property as useful as possible.”

For more information on the Range Area or to inquire about opportunities for teaching and research on the property, contact Robinson at [email protected].

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