Professor of Biological & Environmental Science, ES Program Director, & Lindsay Teaching Fellow
Fire-Grazing Interactions in Kenya
I continue to examine grazing-fire interactions in the Laikipia savannas of Kenya, though our 2020 summer trip was cancelled due to Covid-19. The next trip to Kenya will be summer of 2022, which builds on previous work. In the spring of 2013 and 2017 we burned a series of 18 small plots in collaboration with Truman Young from U.C. Davis and Duncan Kimuyu from University of Nairobi (funded in part by a National Geographic Grant). During the summer of 2013 and 2014 I taught BIOL 375 Conservation Biology and Research Methods in Savannas, a class for Goshen College and Kenyan undergraduates to jointly explore the conservation opportunities in Kenyan savannas. My research and the course is based at Mpala Research Centre in Laikipia, Kenya.
Recent work with four students in 2016 led to a paper addressing the role that fire plays restructuring ant communities which reside on Acacia trees. This is particularly relevant as ants play vital roles in defending the trees against elephant herbivory.
Tallgrass Prairie Grazing Project
Since the summer of 2016, we have partnered with a local CSA, Blue Heron Farms, to examine the effects of cattle grazing on Tallgrass prairie plant communities and carbon sequestration at Merry Lea. The project seeks to understand whether using Tallgrass prairies in grass-fed beef operations can be economically viable while simultaneously serving to sequester carbon and create wildlife habitat. In 2020 we added another site on sandier soils (in Goshen at Little Bluestem Farm) and in 2021 a team of 5 GC students has helped collect data on plant dynamics, soil carbon, and insect diversity.
Sensenig, R.L., E.A. Laca, and M.W. Demment. 2011. Body size and fire-grazing interactions in an East African savanna. Ecological Society of America, Austin Texas.
Gerig, A., J. Good, and R.L. Senseing. 2009. The effects of deer herbivory on Tallgrass prairie forbs. Indiana Academy of Sciences annual meeting, Bloomington, IN.
Sensenig, R.L. 2008. Integrating allometric scaling, landscape ecology, and fire ecology to explain the coexistence of East African grazers, Indiana University South Bend.
Sensenig, R.L., E.A. Laca, and M.W. Demment. 2006. Spatial ecology of fire in an East African savanna: effects of burn size and patchiness on the foraging ecology of grazers of varying body size. Society for Conservation Biology International Convention, San Jose, CA (Student Award Finalist).
LaMalfa, EM, DM Kimuyu, RL Sensenig, TP Young, C. Riginos, KE Veblen. 2019. Tree resprout dynamics following fire depend on herbivory by wild ungulate herbivores. Journal of Ecology, 2019
Bergstrom, B, RL Sensenig, D Augustine, TP Young. 2018. Searching for cover: Soil enrichment and herbivore exclusion, not fire, enhance small-mammal abundance on East African savannas, Ecosphere, 9(11) 2018, https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.2519.
Sensenig, RL, DM Kimuyu, JC Ruiz Guajardo, KE Veblen, C Riginos, KE Veblen, TP Young. 2017. Fire disturbance disrupts an acacia ant-plant mutualism in favor of a subordinate ant species. Ecology, 98(5), pp. 1455–1464.
Kimuyu, DM, RL Sensenig, RM Chira, JM Githaiga, and TP Young. 2017. Spatial scales influence long-term response of herbivores to prescribed burning in a savanna ecosystem. International Journal of Wildland Fire, 26(4):287.
Odadi, WO, Kimuyu DM, Sensenig RL, Veblen, KE, Riginos C, Young TP. 2016. Fire‐induced negative nutritional outcomes for cattle when sharing habitat with native ungulates in an African savanna. Journal of Applied Ecology doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12785.
Pringle, RM, DM Kimuyu, RL Sensenig, TM Palmer, C Riginos, KE Veblen, TP Young. 2015. Synergistic effects of fire and elephants on arboreal animals in an African savanna. Journal of Animal Ecology 84:1637-1645.
Kimuyu DM, Sensenig RL, Riginos C, Veblen KE, Young TP. 2014. Native and domestic browsers and grazers reduce fuel loads, fire temperatures, and acacia-ant mortality in an African savanna. Ecological Applications 24: 741-749
Riginos, R, LM Porensky, KE Veblen, WO Odadi, RL Sensenig, F Keesing, D Kimuyu, ML Wilkerson, and TP Young. 2012. Lessons on the relationship between pastoralism and biodiversity from the Kenya Long-term Exclosure Experiment (KLEE). Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012 2:10.
Sensenig, RL, EA Laca, and MW Demment. 2010. Spatial ecology of fire in an East African savanna: effects of burn size and patchiness on the foraging ecology of grazers of varying body size. Ecology 91:2898–2907.
Gregory, NC, RL Sensenig, and DS Wilcove, 2010. Effects of controlled fire and livestock grazing on bird communities in East African savannas. Conservation Biology 24(6):1606-1616.
Demment, MW, MM Young, and RL Sensenig. 2003. Providing micronutrients through food-based solutions: A key to human and national development. Journal of Nutrition 133 (11): 3879S-3885S.
- Elkhart County Soil & Water Conservation District Educator of the Year
- Achievement Reward for College Scientists, Northern California Chapter ($7,500)
- Student Award Finalist, Society for Conservation Biology 20th Annual Meeting, San Jose, CA, Spatial ecology of fire in an East African savanna: effects of burn size and patchiness on the foraging ecology of grazers of varying body size.
- National Educator Award, Milken Family Foundation, (Chosen as one of 172 teachers from across the nation to receive a $25,000 teaching award by the Milken Family Foundation and the Virginia Department of Education)
- Earth Science Teacher of the Year, Virginia Association of Science Teachers
- Ray A. Kroc Teacher Achievement Award, Chosen by the 1999 Ray A. Kroc Student Scholar, Mr. Hanley Chiang, as the teacher most influential in his education.
- Teacher of the Year, Regional winner, Virginia National Teacher Training Institute
- Teacher of the Year, American Association of University Women regional teacher of the year, Virginia.
2021-22 Co-PI, Center for Sustainability & Climate Solutions (CSCS) Grant ($14,600)
2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020 Goshen College Mininger Grant, Fire-Grazing Ecology in Kenya. ($2000).
2012 National Geographic Society, “Ants, Elephants and Fire: a synergistic examination of savanna tree densities.” Co-PI with Truman Young ($26,950.00)
2012 Goshen College Mininger Grant, Grazing Ecology in Kenya. ($2000).
2011 Goshen College Mininger Grant, Grazing Ecology in Kenya. ($2000).
2010 Goshen College Mininger Grant, Multi-species grazing in tallgrass prairies. ($2000).
2008 Indiana Academy of Science Research Grant, The influence of white-tailed deer on establishment and long-term composition of plant communities in tallgrass prairie restorations, ($2950)
2006-07 Switzer Foundation Environmental Fellowship ($13,000) (Selected as one of six PhD students from California) http://www.switzernetwork.org/fellowships.taf
2006-07 UC Davis Chancellor’s Teaching Fellowship (Selected as one of five UCD graduate students to co-teach a university course with a faculty mentor.)
2006-07 Office of the President’s Dissertation Year Fellowship University of California, Davis (declined)
2004 National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant, Spatial Ecology of Fire in an East African Savanna: Effects of Burn Size and Patchiness on the Foraging Ecology of Herbivores of Varying Body Size ($13,000)
2003-06 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Spatial Ecology of Fire in an East African Savanna: Effects of Burn Size and Patchiness on the Foraging Ecology of Herbivores of Varying Body Size ($89,000 stipend 3 years, plus tuition)
2001-03 Research Assistantship Agronomy & Range Science Department, University of California, Davis ($36,000 plus tuition)
2002-04 UC Davis Grants: Jastro Shields research grants, (2002, 2003, & 2004 total: $7,500)
1999 Toshiba American Foundation Grant, Planting for the Future Greenhouse Project ($7500)