Rangeland, landscape ecologist considers Nebraska dream job

Nicholas McMillan
Nicholas McMillan

by Fran tenBensel Benne | Agronomy and Horticulture

Nicholas McMillan started Jan. 1 as an assistant professor of grazing lands ecology with a joint appointment in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture and the School of Natural Resources.

McMillan’s position is 60% teaching and 40% research. He’s starting his research program and preparing to teach three courses in grassland studies.

His research centers on how to simultaneously meet the increased societal demand for livestock production and biodiversity conservation in a changing world.

McMillan said he’s focused on getting students excited about grassland ecology and preparing them for careers in grassland conservation and management.

Originally from Anderson, South Carolina, McMillan said the potential to live out a dream he set as a kid brought him to Nebraska.

His interest in rangelands and ecology began with his father, Patrick McMillan, a plant taxonomist, ecologist and natural historian. His father hosts “Expeditions With Patrick McMillan,” a national television program through South Carolina Educational TV and American Public Television.

When he was 15 years old, he had the opportunity to visit Sioux County in Western Nebraska with his dad and the camera crew to film two shows about the natural history and ecology of the Great Plains.

“One evening on that trip, I took off up to the top of a badland in Toadstool Geologic Park in the Oglala National Grasslands,” McMillan said. “As I was looking across that vast grassland, I made up my mind that all I wanted to do was live and work in the Great Plains.”

Since then, McMillan has fostered an interest in grassland and rangeland ecology, working to understand how those important systems function.

“In my mind, a position at UNL was a dream job, considering Nebraska had such a profound impact on me and my chosen profession,” he said.

McMillan holds a Bachelor of Science in environmental and natural resources (conservation biology) and a Master of Science in wildlife and fisheries biology from Clemson University. In 2022, he earned a doctorate in natural resource ecology and management from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. Before coming to Nebraska, he was a postdoctoral research fellow at OSU.

More details at: https://go.unl.edu/ioy6