Graduate Student Handbook

Lay Abstract of Theses and Dissertation


  • Lay Abstracts Coordinator - Robert Zink,, W504 NH CC 0338, Phone: 612-590-4215
  • Graduate Committee Co-Chair - Christopher Chizinski,, 511 South HARH EC 0995, Phone: 402-417-0760
  • Graduate Committee Co-Chair - Emma Hazel,, 911 South HARH EC 0989, Phone: 402-472-5355

Let’s be honest. Research in SNR is varied, so much so that people in some fields are not able (or willing) to learn about research in other fields because they lack the technical expertise and understanding of the jargon. The SNR Graduate Committee has approved a voluntary effort by graduate students to include lay abstracts in theses and dissertations. In most career paths, graduate students will be tasked with communicating what they do to the general public, and lay abstracts provide an excellent introduction on how to write for the non-specialist. Lay abstracts will be included on the SNR website, and viewed by donors, alumni, prospective students, and any other people interested in seeing the great research done by our graduate students.

Dr. Bob Zink ( will serve as Lay Abstracts Coordinator. Any interested student can send a draft to Bob and he will work with you (if needed) to bring it to a point where someone outside the field can understand the work and its significance. Only graduate students who submit their thesis or dissertation during the calendar year are eligible. Lay abstracts are due to the Coordinator via email by the date established by the University for Fall semesters. The Lay Abstracts Coordinator will appoint a committee of three faculty who do not have a student in the competition, and they will declare a "Best Lay Abstract". The winner will receive $500.


Select an interesting (non-technical) title because it often determines whether people will read your abstract. Keep it around 300-700 words. The first sentence (and title) often determines whether people keep reading, so make it count. Explain what your research aims to achieve, then how you’re going to do it and why it’s relevant. Know your audience: discuss the value of your research in a way that a middle school student will grasp. Provide examples. Write in the active voice and use the first person where necessary. Keep sentences short, clear, and focused. No jargon or technical terms. Ask someone outside your field to read it over.

Example of Lay Abstract. Brittaney Buchanan’s M.S. on wild turkey

The Wild Turkey brings to many people’s mind the main course at a family feast on a day in late November. But, other than the grocery story, what is the history of this bird in North America? We think of the images of early settlers and their encounters with this majestic bird, but few know that the turkey was hunted almost to extinction, and they were gone from the Nebraska landscape. They are common today, so what happened? Through stricter regulations, captive breeding and reintroductions, the wild turkey has once again become a common sight in the wild, even in cities. Before the near extinction, turkeys in different parts of the range looked different, that is, their feather patterns and coloration were something of a bar code of where they lived. These different turkeys were called Eastern, Rio Grande, Merriam’s, Ocellated, and Gould’s, and today an example of each is often much sought-after by hunters. Several differently appearing birds were reintroduced to Nebraska (including hybrids with domestic birds). My study asked what the genetic consequences have been from the numerous reintroductions and translocations - has all of the mixing of wild turkeys eroded their original genetic “signatures”? I used genetic techniques that allowed me to estimate the portion of each turkey’s genetics was represented by different subspecies. Given the mixing of birds across the range we expected, and found, that the original genetic signatures of birds from different regions are more-or-less homogenized. There are birds of seeming pure ancestry, but the majority are hybrids (some of which look like one or another subspecies). Thus, if the goal of wildlife management was to have more turkeys in the landscape, the reintroductions and translocations, have been extremely successful. If the goal was to maintain the historical pattern of genetic distinctiveness, well, that ship has sailed.

2023 Winner: Corrin Winter

Corrin graduated in August 2023 with a MS in Natural Resource Sciences with a specialization in Applied Ecology

Factors Affecting Nebraskan Farmers’ and Farmland Owners’ Decisions to Adopt Precision Technologies and Programs

To improve both environmental conditions and farmer profitability, we delved into the challenges faced by Nebraskan farmers and landowners when adopting new farming technologies. We looked at data from a 2022 survey with 7,503 participants which included farmers and landowners from across the state of Nebraska. Our goal was to uncover why some adopt new precision agricultural and conservation technologies while others don't. Precision agriculture is the use of technology to improve farmland conditions. For example, using a yield monitor to monitor how many crops grow in each area. Precision conservation is similar, however it focuses on improving environmental conditions on the farm, like soil erosion. In addition, our research was designed to help agencies better share information about precision farming and conservation in a way that benefits the people of Nebraska. Our findings highlighted that finances were the main reason many people were hesitant to adopt precision farming tools. Factors like renting land or being a first-generation farmer also affected which factors influence these decisions. People also preferred getting information about precision farming technologies from friends, family, and fellow farmers, rather than government agencies. Interestingly, those who did favor information from non-governmental agencies were more likely to apply for conservation programs. This shows the importance of government agencies working together with non-government organizations and private companies to promote precision farming technologies and practices. Furthermore, our research showed that farmers and landowners were more satisfied with expert advice when they worked with more agencies and companies. As such, we should encourage cooperation between various agencies and organizations. Cooperation is key to fostering positive attitudes toward the adoption of precision agricultural and conservation technologies and practices in Nebraska.