I am in Sparks, Nevada, at an invited meeting of rangeland social scientists (RSS) organized by Hailey Wilmer and Mark Brunson before the Society for Range Management meeting. I arrived in San Francisco late Friday to visit with Berkeley professor Lynn Huntsinger and her UNevada Geography professor husband Paul Starrs. The view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the harbour was stunning as the sun set, and Paul’s posole a delight. The next morning Lynn and I transected California’s many landscapes and production systems up across the snowy Sierra Nevada (and the notorious Donner Pass), with two of her Berkeley lab PhD students, Tracy Hruska and Sheila Barry.
Both Sheila and Tracy have led papers or chapters I really like, so it was the beginning of a day full of happy name recognition. Awaiting us at the lovely Desert Research Institute where the RSS meeting was being held: thirty more people whose work I have enjoyed and cited since my Australian post-doc. Simply meeting them has made the trip worthwhile, and hearing kind words of appreciation in turn a bonus, particularly for my new commentary on standalone social science in rangelands. The meeting is following an un-conference format, which is new to me, but allowed for a very egalitarian agenda design, and productive discussions in small groups and together. I joined a group on community-building and integration, where those from a mix of career stages discussed the importance of an attractive career script for RSS practitioners, and how this nascent community could help. We’ll pick up some of the threads later today for day two of the un-meeting.