The STAR Science Approach + Science Committees

STAR uses a traditional, independent (not industry led) science approach based on locally relevant research to inform the development of state- and region-specific conservation evaluation tools and field-level rating systems that are vetted by local science and conservation experts. The STAR science framework consists of a set of tools, including field forms, a supporting scoring system, and an outcomes estimation methodology, that is adapted to reflect priority resource concerns and field practices for each participating state or region. Field form content and scoring are determined by an Affiliate Science Committee – with additional guidance and input from the Affiliate Steering Committee – and designed to optimize the potential for positive conservation impact in the state or region. Field forms can address single or multiple resource concerns, such as water quality in the Midwest or soil health and water conservation in the West. The STAR scoring system is translated to a simple field-level rating of 1 to 5 STARs, which can be applied to a variety of crop and livestock production systems to enable consistent evaluation and tracking of conservation progress across the country.

STAR tools are developed by Affiliate Science Committees comprised of university professors, conservation professionals, and producers engaged in research, learning, and application regarding local resource concerns and conservation practices of impact. The National STAR Science Committee is comprised of university researchers, scientific experts in state and local government, producers, and other conservation professionals. Together with support from national STAR, the National STAR Science Committee ensures alignment and consistency in the STAR science development process across state Affiliate programs. National STAR provides support for establishing Affiliate Science Committees and leads the science development process for state Affiliates.

All scientific references and other information sources that support field form content, the scoring system approach, and the outcomes estimation methodology within an Affiliate state are documented and reviewed by the National Science Committee. This documentation can be provided to interested parties upon request.

STAR includes a field-level verification process that collects practice implementation documentation and includes an on-site conservation consultation visit. STAR is committed to protecting the privacy of individual STAR participants. Reporting is provided only at an aggregated level at an appropriate scale (state, county, watershed, supply shed, etc.).

STAR Affiliate Science Committees


  • Lowell Gentry – University of Illinois
  • Doug Gucker – University of Illinois Extension
  • Dr. Bonnie McGill – American Farmland Trust
  • Eric Miller – Producer, Piatt Co. SWCD
  • Brett Roberts – USDA NRCS, CCA
  • Joe Rothermel – Producer, Champaign Co. SWCD
  • Steve Stierwalt – Producer, Champaign Co. SWCD


  • Christine Newton – State Conservation Agronomist, NRCS
  • Patrick O’Neill – Soil Scientist, Agronomist, CCA; Soil Health Services
  • Megan Machmuller – Research Scientist III, Dept of Soil and Crop Sciences; Colorado State University
  • Steve Blecker – Soil Health Specialist, Colorado State University
  • Mike Rademacher – Producer & Secretary/Treasurer, Longmont and Boulder Valley Conservation Districts
  • Greg Vlaming – Producer
  • Roy Pfaltzgraff – Producer
  • Mike Lobato – Producer, Lobato Farms

Washington STAR

  • Deirdre Griffin LaHue – Assistant Professor of Soil Health and Sustainable Soil Management, Washington State University
  • Andy McGuire – Agronomist, Washington State University
  • Chris Benedict – Professor & Regional Extension Specialist, Washington State University
  • Levi Keesecker – Ecosystems Manager and Science Hub Lead, Washington State Conservation Commission
  • Bernardita Sallota – Tree Fruit Extension Specialist, Washington State University

Missouri STAR

  • Ron Willis – Producer, MASWCD President, Andrew County SWCD
  • Ryan Britt – Producer & NACD Executive Board Member, North Central
  • Emily Beck – Natural Resources Conservation Specialist, MFA
  • Ethan Miller – District Manager, Boone SWCD
  • Patricia Turman – State Agronomist, NRCS
  • Mitchell Rice – 4R Certification Program Administrator, Missouri Fertilizer Control Board