TEXAS A&M AGRILIFE RESEARCH 2013 FACULTY FELLOWS
AgriLife Research established the Faculty Fellows Program in 1998 to acknowledge and reward exceptional research faculty within the agency. Upon second recognition, a Faculty Fellow is designated a Senior Faculty Fellow. Faculty Fellow and Senior Faculty Fellow designations are permanent and become a part of the individual’s title.
Dr. Thomas Ficht
Professor, Veterinary Pathology
College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Texas A&M University
Dr. Ficht is a leading international researcher on an important zoonotic disease, Brucellosis, which has a global effect on both humans and their livestock. His targeted research has made significant contributions towards the developing new vaccines for zoonotic pathogens that could threaten the national security of our livestock and of human health. His leadership in this area of research has led to collaborations with international investigators. Scientists from Israel, Mexico, and the Soviet Union have come to Dr. Ficht’s laboratory for training in the molecular detection of this biothreat agent. He has been awarded over $3 million in grant funds in the last five years and ranks in the top three percent of research faculty according to Texas A&M AgriLife funding reports. Dr. Ficht has made significant contributions in research to the understanding of virulence mechanisms of zoonotic diseases. Dr. Ficht joined the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M in 1984. During the course of his tenure, Dr. Ficht has been an exceptional disease researcher and he remains committed to the education and training of the next generation of scientists.
Dr. James P. Muir
Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Stephenville
Dr. Muir has focused his forage legume research career on the plant-animal interface. His interests encompass the broad picture (ecosystems, both natural and manipulated) and how to maintain systems stability while increasing productivity. Research topics have focused on plant response to herbivory, both in terms of survival as well as primary productivity. In some cases, animal (mostly ruminant) responses to plants and plant communities have been of primary interest. Within the topic of legumes, Dr. Muir has established an international presence that has resulted, in recent years, in invitations to speak and publish review articles in Europe, North America, Africa and South America in English, Portuguese and Spanish. Dr. Muir’s international research encompasses multi-purpose legumes as pulses, cover crops, green manures, revegetation, soil conservation, wildlife, forages, bioenergy, grassland restoration, environmental stability, and biodiversity. Before Dr. Muir came to the Texas A&M System 16 years ago, he had already had a 10-year career in international research and development in Africa. He brought those cross-cultural insights and contacts with him to Texas and continues to expand his international reach. In the last five years he has traveled and worked throughout the world undertaking research, training students and presenting his findings. In the last five years, his research has taken him to, among other countries, South Sudan, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Poland, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Portugal and Ireland.
Dr. C. Wayne Smith
Associate Department Head and Professor
Soil and Crop Sciences
Texas A&M University
Dr. Smith has authored or co-authored 105 referred journal articles that deal with an array of scientific inquiries, from the use of the Bayesian approach for statistical mean separation to documentation of created germplasm/cultivars. He has completed research and published on uniform growth stage descriptions, production practices such as plant spacing with modified phenotypes of cotton, nitrogen rates, recovery from hail damage, double cropping, modified germination tests, impact of plant growth regulators, studies on host plant resistance in exotic germplasms, condensed tannin concentrations, field designs, yield components, root growth parameters, within-boll yield components, and fiber growth parameters. The majority of his energies have gone into the development of improved germplasm lines of upland cotton that were then transferred to the private sector for incorporation into adapted cultivars. He has released or co-released a total of 125 germplasm lines and 4 cultivars. Dr. Smith’s plant breeding ability and releases are recognized worldwide. Wayne was invited recently (October 2013) to present research and breeding results to the International Cotton Advisory Committee in Cartagena, Colombia. First, many if not all of the 125 germplasm lines and 4 cultivars have been used by other public breeders and private breeders in the potential development of new cotton cultivars. He has developed and released germplasm with fiber length and strength that is unparalleled in other upland public programs in the U.S. and continues to work in this area. Dr. Smith takes breeding research to completion as documented in over 100 peer reviewed publications and 129 genotype releases during his career. Dr. Smith’s research efforts would not be complete without noting his efforts to create research opportunities for Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant breeders. Wayne developed and guided through the approval process our distance plant breeding graduate program. This distance graduate program is the first distance delivered Ph.D. offered by Texas A&M University and the first in plant breeding offered in the United States. This program was initiated in January 2013 and promises to create collaboration between our plant breeding faculty and research scientists worldwide by co-mentoring distance graduate students. This program will give our plant breeding faculty
2012 FACULTY FELLOWS
Thomas H. Welsh, Jr., Ph.D.
Professor and Section Leader, Physiology of Reproduction
Department of Animal Science
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Dr. Thomas H. Welsh, Jr., is an internationally recognized endocrine physiologist whose major research focus is the investigation of how stress adversely affects the metabolism, immunity, and growth of animals. The central premise is that an appropriately functioning immune system boosts health and promotes efficient use of nutrients by animals, reducing veterinary costs and improving product quality. Dr. Welsh coordinates a team with members across colleges, agencies, and states to develop methods to assess temperament and stress responsiveness in beef cattle. Because of their findings, larger feedyards are incorporating methods for measuring temperament and disposition as they assess and manage incoming cattle. Dr. Welsh and his colleagues also investigate the influence of prenatal stress on postnatal health. Their work is not only relevant for production agriculture but also has implications for human health. The contributions of Dr. Welsh’s team play a key role in the worldwide One Health Initiative, which is based on the premise that animal and human health are inextricably linked. The team has laid the groundwork for epigenomic and translational biology approaches to meet societal challenges that Texas A&M AgriLife Research has a responsibility to address. Throughout his 29-year career in the Department of Animal Science, Dr. Welsh has excelled as a teacher at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He has served on numerous master’s and doctoral committees, including in advisory roles, and is a leader in recruiting underrepresented minorities. He currently holds adjunct appointments to the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences at Texas A&M University and the Department of Animal and Wildlife Sciences at Texas A&M-Kingsville. He has extensively collaborated with Texas A&M University System scientists at Uvalde, Beeville, Kingsville, and Canyon, as well as with faculty at Texas Tech University. His scholarly and service-oriented approach to science brings distinction to AgriLife Research and to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
David D. Briske, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Ecosystem Science and Management
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Dr. David D. Briske’s research on ecological resilience and the ecological and social consequences of climate change has won him international acclaim. Over his 34-year career at Texas A&M University, Dr. Briske has designed innovative experiments, mentored successful graduate students, and frequently published in top-tier science journals. In 2000 he began to investigate the complex and internationally important issues surrounding climate change, collaborating with scientists from around the world. In 2003 Dr. Briske and a departmental colleague developed an experimental field facility on the Texas A&M campus to study the response of regional trees and grasses to increased atmospheric warming and summer drought. Funded by four successive Department of Energy grants, the facility provides a platform to investigate the mechanisms of ecosystem response to climate change. Dr. Briske is currently working with a research team commissioned by the International Society for Range Management to assess the ecological and social impacts of climate change on North American rangelands. In 2008 Dr. Briske was appointed as editor in chief of the academic journal Rangeland Ecology & Management. As a result of his leadership, the number of combined visits to the journal’s web page increased to an all-time high. He has served in several other capacities, including as chair of a National Science Foundation project designed to develop a national ecological monitoring network. Dr. Briske is currently leading a research group on ecological resilience with data from nine long-term vegetation records from the western United States. The group’s research has been called “a novel and daring effort to link people and ecosystems.” Dr. Briske was invited to coauthor a keynote presentation at the International Grassland Congress in Sydney, Australia, in September 2013. Dr. Briske’s experiences provide his students with fascinating insights that go beyond what they find in textbooks. One colleague referred to his accomplishments as creating “a sea change in the approach and direction of the rangeland profession.” He has won numerous awards, including the Chapline Research Award (2008; the highest research award offered by the Society for Range Management) and the Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award for Research in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (2012).
TEXAS A&M AGRILIFE RESEARCH 2012 SENIOR FACULTY FELLOWS
Nova J. Silvy, Ph.D.
Regents Professor and Research Faculty Fellow
Associate Department Head for Undergraduate Programs
Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
During his 38 years at Texas A&M University, Nova J. Silvy has distinguished himself as an exceptional researcher, teacher, and leader in wildlife conservation. Dr. Silvy has had a stellar research career: he has authored more than 265 peer-reviewed publications, won 12 Best Paper awards from his professional organizations, and helped secure over $13 million in funding. He has been a Texas A&M University System Regents Professor since 2001 and became a Texas A&M AgriLife Research Faculty Fellow in 2006. Outside the academic arena, Dr. Silvy’s research has led to the development of a deer guard that keeps the endangered Florida Key deer from being killed on highways. His work has contributed to the understanding of more than 100 wildlife species and has helped prevent five endangered species from going extinct. Dr. Silvy is also a revered mentor of students at all levels. Among his many teaching awards are the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence for Undergraduate and Graduate teaching and The Wildlife Society Educator of the Year Award. In 2008, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences also honored Dr. Silvy as a Minority Recruiting Mentor. He involves undergraduates in field research and introduces them to professional organizations. He has served as faculty adviser to the Texas A&M University student chapter of The Wildlife Society; under his mentorship the chapter’s Wildlife Bowl Team has never placed less than second. He has been the major mentor to 104 graduate students. Four former graduate students have named children after him. In 2012, a former graduate student endowed the Nova J. Silvy Fellowship within the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences. Though Dr. Silvy has undoubtedly made an impression on the wildlife profession, writes Dr. Michael P. Masser, chair of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, “his greatest impact to our profession will be seen in the next generation of wildlife biologists and scientists.” Dr. Silvy has been an active member of The Wildlife Society, his field’s major professional organization, for over 50 years, serving as president from 1999 to 2000. Among his 67 awards and honors are the American Revolution Conservation Medal from the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Aldo Leopold Memorial Award from The Wildlife Society, the highest award given a wildlife professional.
Charles M. Rush
Regents Professor and Research Faculty Fellow
Professor of Plant Pathology
Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Amarillo
Since joining the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Amarillo in 1986, Dr. Rush has led an internationally respected plant pathology program that fights economically damaging crop diseases in the Texas Panhandle. He has gained international recognition for his program’s work on highly contagious crop diseases. To help control rhizomania of sugar beet, for example, Dr. Rush’s program showed how changes in irrigation could lessen the severity of the disease or even keep plants from becoming infected. These studies were among the first to investigate the relationship between irrigation and plant disease progression. The research helped Texas growers both retain high yields and save water. Dr. Rush’s lab gives tours, helps with school science projects, presents its research at field days, and helps growers diagnose plant diseases. He expanded these diagnostic services by establishing a plant disease diagnostic laboratory as part of the National Plant Diagnostic Network. Dr. Rush has provided diagnostic services to detect the fungus that causes Karnal bunt—a disease that attacks wheat and triticale—and provide Texas farmers with documentation that their crop was disease-free and could be sold. Dr. Rush has distinguished himself as a leader in the field of plant pathology. In the past five years alone, he helped to bring more than $16 million in grants for plant disease research, has served on many review panels in his field, and has contributed to 117 publications. He and members of his research staff are sought-after experts and speakers; his former students have become integral faculty in research facilities across the country. Since 2009, Dr. Rush has served as national program director for the Zebra Chip Specialty Crop Research Initiative, coordinating the efforts of 30 scientists in seven states to study zebra chip disease in potatoes. He and several other members of this team received the Integrated Pest Management Team Award from the Entomological Society of America in 2012. Dr. Rush was named a Texas A&M AgriLife Research Faculty Fellow in 2006 and a Texas A&M University System Regents Fellow in 2007.