The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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John Talbott Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Mike Dicianna.

June 29, 2015


John R. Talbott was born in 1955 in Powell, Wyoming and lived there until the seventh grade, at which point his family moved an hour south to Meeteetse, Wyoming. While in high school, he worked as a ranch hand, and after high school he attended the University of Wyoming, graduating in 1978 with a bachelor's degree in wildlife conservation and management.

After college, Talbott was employed briefly by a mining company, before switching gears and beginning work as a game warden for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. In 1980 he received a station appointment in Lusk, Wyoming and then moved, in succession, to multiple posts across the state. In 1986 he was appointed to a regional supervisor position, where he became involved in grizzly bear research and served as the chairman of the Yellowstone Ecosystem Recovery Group. He was later promoted to assistant chief of the Wildlife Division and then, in 1990, to deputy director. Four years after that, he was named director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and he held this position for just over a year, from December 1994 to February 1996.

In 1996 Talbott left Wyoming Game and Fish to start his own consulting company, the Talbott Group. In the beginning, the business focused on environmental compliance projects, but over time Talbott turned his attentions to conflict mediation. He ran the company for three years before deciding to continue his education at Virginia Tech, where he enrolled in fall 1999. A year later, he was hired as the county administrator of Giles County, Virginia and he remained in this position for two years, until October 2002.

While at Virginia Tech, he and a faculty member in the School of Public and International Affairs created the Institute of Public Outreach. The institute focused on policy issues primarily related to rural communities and Talbott served as its director from 2002 to 2006. Talbott completed his master's degree in public administration in 2005 and was an ABD (all but dissertation) doctoral candidate when he left Virginia Tech in 2006.

Talbott moved from Virginia to Bozeman, Montana to become the managing director and project manager of the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership, based at Montana State University. In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, the partnership worked to find ways to capture and permanently store greenhouse gases underground. Talbott also spent two years as the principal and co-owner of Carbon-Strategies, Inc., before assuming a new position as president of Western Resource Management in 2008.

In July 2011, Talbott arrived at Oregon State University, having accepted the directorship of the Sun Grant Western Regional Center, a unit organized within the College of Agricultural Sciences. The Sun Grant initiative focuses on the development of bioenergies and awards grants to researchers for projects in areas including biofuels, life cycle analysis, and bioproduct conversion processes. As Sun Grant director, Talbott has worked to expand the use of renewable fuel stocks for long-term energy security, rural economic development, and environmental stability. Talbott has also partnered with industry consortia and elected officials to explore new ways to produce transportation fuels and renewable substitutes for electricity.

In September 2013, Talbott also became the assistant director of the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station, the principal agricultural research agency in the state. In this capacity, he has helped to manage the grant processes, work plans, and research emphases for Experiment Station faculty both on campus and throughout Oregon.