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Hailey Wilmer, Northern Plains Climate Hub Fellow

Hailey Wilmer is a transdisciplinary social-ecological researcher. She specializes in applied and co-developed research on working rangeland landscapes. Her work seeks to bolster managers’ capacity to achieve multiple management goals, such as enhanced ranching livelihoods, biodiversity conservation, and climate adaptation. Her research focuses on understanding the connections between adaptive decision making and ecosystem outcomes. A former high school agriculture teacher, Hailey applies experiential learning techniques she once used in her classroom to now facilitate her collaborative, living-laboratory research. Much of this work spans boundaries through partnerships with USDA-Forest Service, NRCS and ARS, Cooperative Extension, conservation organizations, and rancher groups. Hailey received her B.S. in 2009 from Cornell University in International Agriculture and Rural Development as well as Agriculture Science Education, an M.S. in 2014 from Colorado State University in Rangeland Ecosystem Science, and a Ph.D. in 2016 at Colorado State University in Rangeland Ecosystem Science with a certificate in Women’s Studies. Click here to access Hailey’s publications.

Current Projects

Collaborative Adaptive Rangeland Management (CARM)

The CARM project aims to advance our understanding of collaborative adaptive management's ability to help society achieve multiple goals, such as for profitable ranching, drought resilience, biodiversity conservation and social learning. This research project involves tracking adaptive management in CARM, a 10-year, ranch scale participatory grazing experiment, which is also a USDA-ARS Long-term Agroecological Research site. CARM partners include, but are not limited to: USDA-ARS, Forest Service, and NRCS; Bird Conservancy of the Rockies; Colorado State Land Board; Colorado State University – including Cooperative Extension; Crow Valley Livestock Cooperative; Environmental Defense Fund; Texas A&M; The Nature Conservancy; UC Davis; University of  Nebraska, Lincoln; and University of Wyoming.

Learn more about the CARM project by watching or reading the following materials (click on the hyperlinked text below):

Project Website – USDA ARS Rangeland Resources & Systems Research: Fort Collins, CO: Collaborative Adaptive Rangeland Management Experiment

VideoCommon Ground: Can we manage rangelands for beef, birds, and people?

PosterEvaluating a transformative research methodology to adapt to agroecosystem complexity

Fact SheetBeef & Birds: Can Conservation & Beef Production Find Common Ground?


Wilmer, H.; Porensky, L.M.; Fernández-Giménez, M.E.; Derner, J.D.; Augustine, D.J.; Ritten, J.P.; Peck, D.P. 2019. Community-Engaged Research Builds a Nature-Culture of Hope on North American Great Plains Rangelands. Social Sciences, 8, 22; DOI:10.3390/socsci8010022

Fernández-Giménez, M. E., L. B. Jennings & H. Wilmer. 2018. Poetic Inquiry as a Research and Engagement Method in Natural Resource Science. Society & Natural Resources, 1-12. DOI:10.1080/08941920.2018.1486493

Wilmer, H., J. D. Derner, M. E. Fernández-Giménez, D. D. Briske, D. J. Augustine, L. M. Porensky , the CARM Stakeholder Group.  2018.  Collaborative Adaptive Rangeland Management Fosters Management-Science Partnerships. Rangeland Ecology & Management 71: 646–657

Ranch Decision-Making Research

This research takes an in-depth look at the processes and outcomes of decision-making at the ranch scale. It involves repeated monitoring of rangeland plant communities on ranches across Wyoming and Colorado. It also documents of how ranchers adapt to variable weather and climate, as well as other ecological, social and economic challenges, over time.


Wilmer,  H., D. J. Augustine ,  J. D. Derner,  M. E. Fernández-Giménez  D. D. Briske, L. M. Roche, K. W. Tate , K. E. Miller. 2018.  Diverse Management Strategies Produce Similar Ecological Outcomes on Ranches in Western Great Plains: Social-Ecological Assessment. Rangeland Ecology & Management 71: 626–636

Click here to view a short film summary of the above publication.

Ghajar, S., Fernández-Giménez, M.E., Wilmer, H. 2019. Home on the digital range: Ranchers’ web access and use. Rangeland Ecology and Management.

Stephenson, M.B., Wilmer, H., Bolze, R., Schiltz, B. 2017. Evaluating an on-ranch rangeland monitoring program in Nebraska. Rangelands 39 (5), 143-151. 

Wilmer, H., York, E., Kelley, W. K., & Brunson, M. W. 2016.  “In Every Rancher’s Mind”: Effects of Drought on Ranch Planning and PracticeRangelands, 38: 216-221.

Wilmer, H. and Sturrock, J., (In press). “Humbled by Nature”: A rancher’s mental-model of adaptation in the Great Plains. Great Plains Research.

Assessing the rate and reversibility of large herbivore effects on community composition in a semi-arid grassland ecosystem.

Resilience-based theories of plant community change under varying conditions and grazing regimes have received increased attention from recent empirical studies, but evaluations of the effects of imposing and relaxing large herbivore grazing are uncommon. Experimental assessment of the rates and magnitude of both the imposition and relaxation of grazing on plant species composition is needed to ground manager decision-support materials, like state-and-transition models (STMs), in empirical evidence, and to better detect and plan for dynamic ecological conditions in semi-arid grasslands. The research evaluates the results of a long-term (25-year) grazing exclosure reversal experiment on the semi-arid shortgrass steppe where current STMs hypothesizes reversible community phases among shortgrass and P. smithii dominated communities as a result of imposition and relaxation of grazing over multiple decades.

Outreach and Engagement: Colorado State University Extension and USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub “Range Schools”

In collaboration with CSU Rangeland Management Extension and a team of collaborating rangeland management professionals from other state, federal and private organizations, this project involves development and delivery of rangeland management workshops across Colorado, with a focus on adaptive management and drought. Full partner list includes: USDA-FSA, NRCS, & Forest Service, local conservation districts, Bureau of Land Management, The Nature Conservancy, and Bird Conservancy of the Rockies.

Click here to view the to project website.

Click here to view the May 2018 project report.

Making a Drought Plan: Five Ways to Improve Flexiblity & Reduce Risk