Project Team

Andres Cibils

Dr. Cibils, Project Director, is Professor of Range Science in the Department of Animal and Range Sciences at New Mexico State University. Dr. Cibils and graduate students in his lab study grazing behavior of rangeland-raised cattle and sheep using animal wearable sensors to understand movement and activity patterns of livestock in relation to environment- and animal-related factors. Dr. Cibils currently collaborates closely with colleagues at the USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range, the Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua (México), and the Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria (La Rioja, Argentina) studying the grazing behavior of Criollo cattle on arid and semiarid rangelands of the SW USA, northern Mexico, and NW Argentina.

Sheri Spiegal

Dr. Sheri Spiegal, Co-Project Director, is a Range Management Specialist at the USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Sheri uses ecological site description and livestock tracking to design management strategies that conserve both natural resources and input costs for ranchers. She is collaboratively evaluating the environmental and socioeconomic tradeoffs of different beef production systems – from Southwest pasture to plate – with explicit attention to how flows of cattle affect the social-ecological systems of regions connected through beef. Sheri is delighted to work with the talented collaborators of the Sustainable Southwest Beef Coordinated Agricultural Project.


Skye Aney

Skye Aney has worked with the USDA Southwest Climate Hub since 2017 on a number of climate change resiliency and adaptation related projects, the most recent being the production of the newly released Dust Mitigation Handbook. He previously worked as a soil scientist mapping soils for irrigation suitability, and as a GIS analyst. Skye’s current research focuses on environmental predictors of drought-related tree mortality in pinyon-juniper woodlands. Skye holds a B.S. degree in Soil Science with a minor in Range Science, and a Master of Applied Geography, both from New Mexico State University.

David Archer

Dr. David Archer is Research Leader of the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory (NGPRL) in Mandan, North Dakota. He has a Ph.D. from Iowa State University in Agricultural Economics. His research focus is on economic performance and sustainability of agricultural systems, evaluating economic risks and returns, and quantifying tradeoffs between economic and environmental impacts of agricultural systems. His research has included a wide range of systems including strip-tillage and no-till systems, diverse rotations, cover crops, organic systems, biofeedstock production, and integrated crop-livestock systems. He has authored/co-authored more than 95 scientific publications.

Brent Auvermann

Based in Amarillo, Dr. Auvermann’s research program centers on environmental quality and natural resources associated with confined livestock production. He is also an adjunct faculty member in the College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences at West Texas A&M University (WTAMU). Dr. Auvermann specializes in air quality; natural-resource consumption; manure, nutrient, and mortality management; water quality; and biomass energy as they all pertain to confined cattle feeding. His projects focus on feedyard manure management, production and land application of composted manure, dust and odor abatement, feedyard dust characterization, antimicrobial resistance, and air pollution policy analysis. Dr. Auvermann’s role in the Southwest Beef CAP is to stimulate and sustain meaningful integration of engineering, ecology, and the social sciences, especially as that integration pertains to feedyard-level decisions to adopt (or not to adopt) new conservation technologies and/or management strategies in the cattle-feeding industry.

Brandon Bestelmeyer

Dr. Bestelmeyer is the Research Leader of the USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range in Las Cruces, NM. In this project, he contributes to Precision Ranching and Pericoupling research. Dr. Bestelmeyer is Director of the Jornada Experimental Range Long-Term Agroecosystem Research program and a co-PI of the Jornada Basin Long-Term Ecological Research program at New Mexico State University. The Jornada research unit links site-based research on ecological processes, innovative livestock production systems, and ecosystem restoration with national and global research on land monitoring and decision support tools. Dr. Bestelmeyer’s personal research focuses on the causes of ecosystem change in rangelands, the development of Ecological Site Descriptions as tools to manage change, and the use of monitoring for collaborative decision-making.

Stephanie Bestelmeyer

Dr. Bestelmeyer creates and implements innovative science education programs for K-12 students and teachers. Programs focus on increasing students’ science literacy and their interest in considering science careers for themselves. She has served as the Executive Director of the nonprofit Asombro Institute for Science Education since 2000. Asombro means “wonder” in Spanish, and this is exactly what the organization brings to more than 24,000 K-12 students and 1,000 adults each year through the delivery of field trips, classroom/schoolyard lessons, and teacher workshops. Asombro programs vary in topic and format, but all share several characteristics: (1) all lessons align with education standards (including the Next Generation Science Standards), (2) programs are inquiry-based (participants learn science by doing science), and (3) program are place-based and include the most up-to-date science thanks to Asombro’s collaborations with scientists at multiple universities and agencies. For this project, Dr. Bestelmeyer is a lead for the K-12 Education team. This team will develop and deliver K-12 science lessons that related to themes and results from this project.

Laura Boucheron

Dr. Laura E. Boucheron is an Associate Professor in Electrical Engineering at New Mexico State University (NMSU). She received her BSEE and MSEE from NMSU and her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of California Santa Barbara. Dr. Bouheron’s research interests are at the intersection of image processing and machine learning, including deep learning. She is particularly interested in interdisciplinary applications where she can use machine learning to facilitate scientific discovery. Her research group is active in solar image analysis for space weather analysis including solar flare prediction and segmentation of coronal holes. Current research interests include incorporation of temporal information in analysis of image sequences, convolutional neural networks, recurrent neural networks, fully convolutional neural networks, and interpretability of machine learning solutions.

Carolina Brandani

Dr. Brandani is a postdoctoral research associate at New Mexico State University - Department of Animal and Range Sciences. Currently, her research is focused on evaluating soil attributes and vegetation composition in rangelands of the Western United States comparing the environmental footprint of different cattle breeds. Prior to joining New Mexico State University, Dr. Brandani worked at the University of Florida as a postdoctoral fellow in the Long-term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) network evaluating the effect of fire frequency and associating the use of chopping with fire on production and environmental responses in pine flatwood rangelands relative to unburnt areas. She also has experience working with different soil-plant systems such as forest plantations (Eucalyptus sp and Acacia mangium), sugarcane, and cultivated pastures, evaluating the effects of soil management on dynamics of soil organic matter, soil fertility, soil quality indicators and greenhouse gas emissions.

Scott Brinker

Certified Executive Chef, Morrison Healthcare.
Executive Chef for Rapid City Monument Healthcare.
Represent a multi-billion dollar international foodservice contract company.
45 years foodservice and food marketing experience.
Served on board for several state wide sustainability and local naturally raised food organizations (Black Hills Farmers Market, and South Dakota Specialty Producers association).
Advocate of the Audubon pasture certification and grass fed grass finished Criollo.

Huiping Cao

Dr. Huiping Cao is an Associate Professor in Computer Science at New Mexico State University (NMSU). She received her Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Hong Kong. Dr. Cao’s research interests are in the general areas of data mining, big data, and applied machine learning. In particular, she is interested in creating effective and efficient computational methodologies for the discovery of useful knowledge from complex data (e.g., sequences and graphs) through pre-defined mining requests or ad-hoc queries. Her past and ongoing research projects include discovering sequential patterns from spatiotemporal data, integrating heterogeneous data from multiple sources, query processing over spatial databases and graph databases, mining influence information from graphs (e.g., social networks), and clustering and classifying power-system data to detect disturbances. Her work has been sponsored by several NSF awards. She has published data management and data mining articles in highly competitive venues. Dr. Cao has served at the editorial board for Journal on Data Semantics (JoDS), as reviewer for peer-reviewed journals, and as program committee member for many international conferences and workshops.

Ericha Courtright

Ericha Courtright is an IT Specialist with the USDA ARS Jornada Experimental Range.

Coury Dorn

Coury Dorn is a Graduate Research Assistant with the USDA Southwest Climate Hub, Jornada Experimental Range. He holds a BS in Geology and is currently pursuing a Master of Applied Geography and a MS in Water Science and Management at New Mexico State University. His thesis research focuses on climate change impacts on snowmelt hydrology in the Rio Grande Headwaters basin, Colorado. At the USDA Southwest Climate Hub, Coury is assisting with the expansion of knowledge and cataloging of decision support tools that are applied to beef production and consumption. During his free time, he can often be found fly fishing, rock climbing, backpacking, and skiing.

Danielle Duni

Danielle is a Colorado native that grew up spending summers on her family’s sheep ranch in Wyoming, this sparked her interest in agriculture and working towards solutions to keep producers in business. Currently, Danielle is a master’s student at New Mexico State University, double majoring in Range Science and Water Science Management with a focus in Agricultural Water Resources. Danielle is conducting research on a cattle breed comparison study that examines the behavioral differences in heritage genetics versus British cattle genetics. The goal of the study is to determine whether breeds differ in the way they use the landscape. Danielle is evaluating correlations in snowpack and forage availability using remote sensing imagery. Danielle’s extracurricular activities and interests are: snow science, volunteering, backpacking, skiing, agriculture, spending time outside learning and refining my agriculture skills, including animal husbandry and vegetable farming. After graduation Danielle hopes to work in livestock production.

Glenn Duff

Glenn Duff is a Professor and Superintendent at the Clayton Livestock Research Center. Dr. Duff’s area of expertise is feedlot nutrition and health. Glenn has published over 80 peer-reviewed publications, and numerous book chapters, proceedings papers and abstracts. Dr. Duff is currently President-Elect for the Board of Directors for the American Society of Animal Science.

Kristy Ehlers

Kristy Ehlers has been an educator for 30 years, serving as a teacher of gifted and special education, curriculum coordinator, state director of gifted education, director of human resources, assistant superintendent of curriculum and professional development, grant writer, district superintendent, and educational technology generalist. Currently she is employed by El Reno Public Schools (Oklahoma) where she is the Director of School Partnerships and Special Projects. As such she serves as the district’s liaison between business and industry, career tech, college and university, and BlueSTEM AgriLearning Center. Kristy holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education (Central State University, Oklahoma), a Master of Science degree in Special Education (University of Central Oklahoma), and a Ph.D. in Applied Behavioral Studies with an emphasis in Gifted Education, Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Leadership, and Educational Psychology Oklahoma State University).

Emile Elias

Dr. Emile Elias is a research hydrologist with the USDA agricultural research service and director of the USDA Southwest Climate Hub – an organization covering 5 states in the Southwest. She has worked for more than two decades at the interface of water scarcity, water quality, agricultural production and natural resources with the goal of supporting resilient landscapes and communities. Emile leads a Southwest Hub team that is engaged in research and science synthesis efforts, tool development to support informed decision-making, and stakeholder outreach.

Rick Estell

Dr. Estell is Lead Scientist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service's Jornada Experimental Range. His research emphasis is on the biochemical basis of diet selection and the influence of secondary chemicals on shrub consumption by ruminants. His focus recently shifted to understanding the production potential and ecological impacts of a little known cattle biotype-the Raramuri Criollo. He co-leads the Jornada Long Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) common experiment examining the behavior and attributes of this biotype.

Belle Federman

Dr. Belle Federman joined the Office of Educational Innovation & Evaluation (OEIE) as an evaluator in 2019. She has more than 25 years of experience designing and implementing evaluation and research studies at the local, state, and federal levels for funders such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Federman has extensive expertise developing data collection instruments and protocols, analyzing quantitative and qualitative data, and disseminating findings through a variety of data visualization techniques, technical reports, and peer-reviewed manuscripts.

Micah Funk

Micah Funk is a graduate research assistant in the department of Animal and Range Sciences at New Mexico State University, studying a M.S of range science. Micah received a bachelor's degree of agronomy and range science from NMSU where he worked for the alfalfa breeding and genetics program. After graduating he worked conducting AIM vegetation surveys for the Bureau of Land Management and as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania focused on increasing food security. Micah is currently researching vegetation impacts of heritage and conventional cattle biotypes on Chihuahuan desert rangeland and recording plant species diversity and dynamics.

Craig Gifford

Craig Gifford joined NMSU as the Beef Cattle Extension Specialist in July 2016. Craig received his B.S. degree in Animal Science from the University of Wyoming and M.S. degree in Animal Physiology from NMSU. He then went to the University of Idaho for a Ph.D. in Animal Physiology. Craig’s Extension program goals are to increase profitability and sustainability of New Mexico ranches, and he also maintains a research program which focuses on improving reproductive technologies and animal health in beef cattle.

Qixu Gong

Qixu Gong is pursuing his Ph.D. degree under the guidance of Dr. Huiping Cao in Computer Science at New Mexico State University (NMSU). He received his master's degree from the School of Economic Information Engineering at the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics. His main interests and searches are algorithm optimization, algorithm design, and deep learning on graphs. In particular, he optimizes the existing methods and designs the specific approaches to support the pre-defined or ad-hoc queries on graphs. His ongoing interests are trying to apply the deep learning technologies to the traditional graph problems and algorithms.

John Holland

Dr. Holland is an upland ecologist based at the SRUC Hill and Mountain Research Centre at Kirkton and Auchtertyre Farms, near Crianlarich in Perthshire, Scotland. John has always had an interest in ecology and natural history, particularly in mountain environments. He went to Durham University where he gained a BSc (Honours) degree in Botany and Geography in 1989. John then worked for a number of conservation and environmental organisations including English Nature and ADAS, before joining SAC (the former name of SRUC) in 1994. John studied for his PhD on ‘Plant herbivore interactions within a complex mosaic of grassland, mire and montane communities’ at SAC and Glasgow University. John has been the alpine secretary for the Botanical Society of Scotland since 2004, organizing the annual alpine field meeting. He is an active bird and plant recorder. He is also a trustee of the Farm Woodland Forum (a charity whose objective is to advance public education in all aspects of the science and practice of farming with trees in the UK and elsewhere).

Myriah Johnson

Myriah Johnson serves as the Senior Director of Beef Sustainability Research with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). In her position with NCBA, Myriah leads the beef checkoff's sustainability research program. She is responsible for not only setting the direction of the research program, but developing and implementing checkoff-funded programs that validate and benchmark how beef is responsibly & sustainably raised.

Myriah earned a B.S. in Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University, her M.S. in Agricultural Economics from Texas A&M University and PhD in Animal Science, also from Texas A&M University. Myriah was raised in Perry, OK on a cow-calf, stocker, and small grains operation. She and her husband, Chris Looney, remain actively involved in the operation.

Emilia Linley

Emilia is the Special Programs Leader with Asombro. She holds a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction as well as a BA in Cultural Communication Studies, both from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico. After graduating, Emilia has worked in elementary education within Las Cruces and Gadsden public school districts. She has presented at numerous science conferences for educators in Southern New Mexico and has been recognized as a science educator with the Science Tools in the Classroom Fellowship Program. Emilia’s passion for science education has been a driving force in her curriculum and instruction in the public schools and at Asombro she is able to further share her passion for hands-on science education.

Ann Marshall

Ann Marshall has been the Education Director at BlueSTEM AgriLearning Center since 2015. She earned a Master’s of Science in Earth Science degree from Eastern Michigan University. She was awarded a fellowship to serve as Education Specialist at the Great Lakes Research Laboratory (NOAA) in Ann Arbor, MI for three years and did extended work with Michigan Sea Grant. Ann has also taught middle school biology and high school environmental science at an inner city school in Oklahoma City, OK. She has been an adjunct instructor at Eastern Michigan University and Washtenaw Community College and currently serves as an adjunct instructor at Redlands Community College in El Reno, OK.

Matthew McIntosh

Matthew McIntosh is a graduate research assistant in the department of Animal and Range Sciences at New Mexico State University. Matt is currently investigating grazing behavior and animal-plant interactions of conventional and heritage cattle biotypes and wildlife on Chihuahuan desert rangelands as well climate-change effects on native plants. Matt is also working with the precision ranching team to develop real-time telemetric tools for extensive ranching applications.

Rhonda Miller

Rhonda Miller is a professor in the Animal Science department at Texas A&M University. She has developed a research program on the aspects of the palatability, composition and shelf-life of meat products. Her research has been instrumental in understanding factors that affect beef flavor and consumer perceptions of beef flavor, and she is recognized as an expert in meat sensory science. Rhonda strives to incorporate her industry experience into her teaching and research activities, and emphasizes the application of her research findings. She was the recipient of the 1992 American Meat Science Achievement Award, the 2006 American Meat Science Teaching Award, the 2015 American Meat Science Research Award, and the 2016 American Society of Animal Science Meat Science Research Award. She was a Director for the American Meat Science Association from 1998 to 2000 and served as President-elect, President, and Past President of the American Meat Science Association from 2017-2019. She has won several professional awards; has served on numerous professional committees; and has served on the Genetic Programs Committee, the Production Systems Committee, the Quality Solutions Team and the Animal Science Committee of the National Pork Board. She was honored as an AgriLife Faculty Fellow in 2017.

Mark Musumba

Mark Musumba is an agricultural economist with an interest in exploring the linkages among agricultural production, environment, and livelihoods within agricultural systems. Mark received both his MS and PhD from Texas A&M University. Mark was previously an Associate Research Scientist at Columbia University’s Earth Institute (CU) and a Research Associate at the University of Florida. At CU, Mark was instrumental in implementing the Vital Signs project, an integrated monitoring system to collect data and examine linkages between agricultural production and livelihoods in three sub Saharan countries. At the University of Florida, he co-led a project to develop a sustainable intensification assessment framework and methods manual for use by scientists investigating the sustainability of agricultural innovations.

Dr. Nyamuryekung’e

Dr. Nyamuryekung’e, is a Research Associate at the Department of Animal and Range Sciences at New Mexico State University. Dr. Nyamuryekung’e received both his M.Sc. and Ph.D. from NMSU. His research included studying grazing behavior, mother-offspring interactions, heat tolerance, and the use of a UAV (drone) as a tool for animal monitoring in extensive cattle ranching systems across New Mexico, USA, and Chihuahua, Mexico. His expertise includes deployment and analysis of wearable telemetry devices like GPS collars, Proximity loggers, and thermal loggers. Dr. Nyamuryekung’e is also a certified NIR spectrometer machine operator. In this project, his contribution will be on the Precision Ranching and Breed Comparison research.

John Ragosta

John Ragosta is an Associate Research Scientist with New Mexico State University’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. John serves as the Data Manager for the Sustainable Southwest Beef project while providing data management support to the USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range in Las Cruces, NM. Prior to joining NMSU and the SW Beef Project, John was the Data Manager for the State of North Carolina’s child welfare system, where he managed a team of data analysts who provide reporting and analytic support to stakeholders statewide. John earned a Master’s of Public Policy degree from the University of California at Los Angeles and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Connecticut College.

C. Alan Rotz

Dr. Rotz leads and conducts integrated farming systems research to evaluate and improve the sustainability of farm-scale production systems. His work has included the development and application of the Integrated Farm System Model, a tool for evaluating the performance, environmental impacts and economics of crop, beef and dairy production systems. This work has included the evaluation of a wide range of practices for crop production, harvest, and preservation, cattle feeding and management, and manure handling and nutrient management. He recently completed a national life cycle assessment of beef cattle production in the United States. In this project, he leads work on modeling, assessment and comparison of alternative production practices to improve the sustainability of rangeland cattle production in the Southwest.

Jason Smith

Jason is a native of northern Virginia, where he developed a passion for beef cattle at an early age. He received his B.S. with a focus in beef cattle management and M.S. with a focus in ruminant nutrition and feed manufacturing from West Virginia University before spending 2 years as a Ruminant Nutritionist and Biologist for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Medicated Feeds Team. Jason then received his Ph.D. from Virginia Tech with a focus in applied nutritional management of beef cattle before spending 4 years as an Extension Beef Cattle Specialist for the University of Tennessee. Jason currently serves as an Extension Beef Cattle Specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension in Amarillo, TX where his efforts are focused toward developing and supporting educational programs that benefit beef cattle producers and other industry stakeholders. Jason also works to conduct applied and demonstrational research in beef cattle nutrition in order to link fundamental discovery to application in the field, and answer production-relevant questions that would otherwise remain unanswered.

Jean Steiner

Dr. Steiner leads and conducts integrated systems research to enhance sustainability of agriculture. In this project, she is a Senior Science Coordinator in the NMSU Department of Animal and Range Sciences, working with the Project Director and Team Leads to facilitate cross-team communication and integration. Through her career, she has worked in irrigated and rainfed cropping systems, humid pasture systems, and sub-humid native prairie systems, as well as in linked crop-livestock systems. As former Director of the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Grazinglands Research Laboratory in El Reno Oklahoma, she was lead scientist for the Southern Plains site of the USDA ARS Long Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) network, leader in the USDA Southern Plains Climate Hub, and co-lead on the USDA-NIFA-CAP project focused on resilience of Southern Plains beef cattle grazing systems under changing climate.

Keegan Taylor

Keegan Taylor is a M.S student in the department of Animal and Range Sciences at NMSU. He received his bachelor’s of Animal Science with a certificate in Beef Production Systems from Colorado State University in 2019. While a student, he worked on the University-owned cow/calf operation located in Northern Colorado. Through research and extension, Keegan’s goals are to evaluate and promote methods of sustainable agriculture to aid New Mexico producers in a changing industry.

Allison Teeter

Dr. Allison Teeter joined the Office of Educational Innovation & Evaluation (OEIE) in 2011. In her role as Evaluator, she has led over 20 evaluations conducted at the local, state, and federal level and provided support for numerous others. She has experience coordinating both large and small projects for funders such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Science Foundation (NSF), Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), and the Kansas Corn Commission (KCC). Dr. Teeter has extensive expertise designing and implementing evaluations, developing data analysis plans and analyzing data, preparing technical evaluation reports, and managing project teams.

Cindy Tolle

Cindy Tolle is the CEO of Evergreen Ranching and Livestock LLC and Evergreen Specialty Foods. Evergreen Ranching raises Criollo Cattle and Bison in the United States and in Mexico. Academically trained as an ecologist, Cindy has a deep appreciation for the role of grazing on the landscape and has collaborated for a number of years with the Jornada Experimental Range on Criollo projects. Evergreen Specialty Foods provides Audubon Conservation Ranching Certified grass-fed, grass-finished Criollo Beef, Bison, pastured pork, goat and lamb to clients in a wide market.

Greg Torell

Dr. Torell specializes in environmental and natural resource economics. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in agricultural economics from New Mexico State University, and has recently received a PhD in economics from the University of Wyoming. His work has included issues in rangeland management, water quality and policy, and the impacts of renewable sources of electricity in the western United States.

Tony Waterhouse

Tony is a livestock scientist with over 35 years’ experience in the study of livestock systems and animal welfare in the UK. He is former head of the Hill and Mountain Research and the Beef and Sheep Research Centres at SRUC, and now holds an Emeritus Fellowship at SRUC. Currently, his research is focusing on opportunities in wearable technology and precision livestock farming, with direct recent experience in next generation animal telemetry using Internet of Things (IoT) communication with technologies capable of providing animal monitoring, and animal management in real-time. He led the team that built, commissioned and used the award-winning (GreenGown Award 2015) GreenCow facility for measuring livestock emissions alongside large-scale feed intake facilities, and led SRUC’s team working within livestock emissions project as part of the UK's Agricultural GHG Research Platform project. Tony has wide experience of practical farming systems, being farm director for SRUC’s upland farms for over 20 years, involving management of 3,500 hectares, 350 breeding cows and 5,000 breeding ewes. He has traveled widely in Europe, China and South America, recently supervising a large number of visiting postgraduate students in partnership with Brazilian universities. He has been Chair and Vice-Chair of SRUC’s Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Board.