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Journal of Animal Science - 2011 and 2012 Early Careers Achievement Awards

2011 AND 2012 EARLY CAREERS ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS: Recognizing achievement of young scholars working to foster the discovery, sharing, and application of knowledge concerning the responsible use of animals to enhance human life and well-being1


This article in JAS

  1. Vol. 91 No. 6, p. 2453-2455
    Received: Apr 15, 2013
    Accepted: Apr 15, 2013
    Published: November 25, 2014

    2 Corresponding author(s):

  1. J. C. Whittier 2 and
  2. J. V. Yelich
  1. Department of Animal Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins 80523
    Department of Animal Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville 32611

The American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) introduced Early Career Achievement Awards in 2007 to recognize the achievement of outstanding young scholars working toward the mission of ASAS, namely to, “foster the discovery, sharing, and application of scientific knowledge concerning the responsible use of animals to enhance human life and well-being.” In the fifth year (2011) of this award, 2 recipients were selected, and in the sixth year (2012) of this award, 3 recipients were selected from a competitive review of candidates nominated by current ASAS members. Candidates are not required to be ASAS members, and there are no restrictions on country of residence, but nominees must have completed their most recent degree within 10 yr of the time of nomination. Nominations are comprised of a brief biography, summary of scholarly work, and letters of support from at least 2 ASAS members. Collectively, this material must demonstrate that the achievements of the nominee serve the mission of ASAS.

Successful recipients are required to contribute a presentation at the Joint Annual Meeting, submit an abstract for that presentation, and submit a manuscript highlighting the presented material. In return, they receive a travel allowance, complimentary registration at the meeting, and 2-yr membership in ASAS, sponsored by the ASAS Foundation. Finally, recipients become members of the award committee in the following year, and participate in the challenging task of identifying their successors.

The nominees represented the diversity enjoyed by the ASAS membership pool in terms of countries of origin, discipline or species interests, public or private sector employment, job responsibilities in terms of teaching, research and extension, and gender. There was much less diversity in the level of achievement of these nominees; all the candidates were worthy of recognition for performance beyond the level of their average peers, whether in terms of research grants and peer-reviewed publications, leadership in their disciplines, graduate and undergraduate teaching, or extension activities. Most candidates did many of these activities, regardless of the nature of their appointment.

The 2011 Early Career Achievement Awards were presented to Drs. Anna K. Johnson and Kimberly Vonnahme. The 2012 Early Career Achievement Awards were presented to Drs. Robert Rhoads, Jr., Paul Beck, and Kelly Swanson. Dr. Vonnahme presented at Joint Annual Meeting (JAM) in 2011 in New Orleans. Dr. Johnson’s 2011 awardees’ presentation, along with the presentations by the three 2012 awardees were given at the JAM in 2012 in Phoenix. For purposes of continuity, the papers from 2011 awardees are being published concurrent with the papers of the 2012 awardees in a single issue of Journal of Animal Science.

Dr. Anna K. Johnson is an Associate Professor at Iowa State University in the Department of Animal Science. She received BS and MS degrees in the United Kingdom from the University of Reading and the University of Edinburgh, respectively. Johnson earned her doctoral degree in animal welfare from Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Dr. Johnson teaches courses in animal behavior and well-being, and her research interests are in the area of farm animal behavior and welfare in both conventional and alternative production systems. Her recent research interests have focused on identifying on-farm factors that contribute to transportation losses of market weight pigs. Transportation is an essential element to the multi-site pork production model used in the United States. In 2011 alone, ∼111 million market weight pigs were transported from the finishing site to the abattoir (Johnson et al., 2013). For pigs, the marketing process can present a combination of potentially novel, physical, and/or unfamiliar experiences that can be stressful. By understanding how pigs interact with their environment during marketing, researchers, producers and personnel at the abattoir may begin to identify, prioritize, and attempt to minimize or eliminate these stressors. Dr. Johnson’s research in this area is designed to ultimately decrease transportation losses, improve pork quality, and increase profitability (Johnson et al., 2013).

Dr. Kimberly Vonnahme is an Associate Professor and Co-Director of the Center for Nutrition and Pregnancy in the Animal Sciences Department at North Dakota State University, Fargo. She received a BS in Animal Science from Iowa State University, an MS in reproductive biology from Oklahoma State University, and the PhD in reproductive biology from the University of Wyoming. Dr. Vonnahme completed post-doctoral work at the University of Wyoming. Her current field of specialization is reproductive physiology and focuses on understanding the interaction of maternal nutrition with placental and fetal development. Proper establishment of the placenta is important for fetal survival and proper development (Vonnahme et al., 2013). The effects of maternal nutritional status and activity level on placental vascular function and uteroplacental blood flow are important to understand as improper placental function leads to reduced growth of the fetus. To understand the mechanism of how the maternal environment can impact uterine or umbilical blood flows, assessment of placental vascular reactivity has been studied in several large animal models.

Dr. Paul Beck is a Professor of Animal Science at the University of Arkansas, Southwest Research and Extension Center in Hope. Beck received his BS and MS degrees in Animal Science from Oklahoma State University and his PhD at the University of Arkansas. Grazing forages on small-grain fields can be a profitable ‘second crop’ for grain producers and provide an opportunity for cow-calf producers to retain ownership of weaned calves (Beck et al., 2013). However, increasing costs of conventional tillage and movement of soil nutrients into streams creates a need for more sustainable production practices to be adopted by the producers. Beck’s research focuses on beef cattle management and nutrition in grazing cattle. His research evaluates the impacts of soil tillage methods, forage species, and grazing systems on forage production, animal performance, soil and water quality, and water runoff. Furthermore, Beck evaluates different production systems and their ability to improve economic returns while reducing environmental impacts of stocker cattle enterprises. His experiments have shown that production systems can be designed that increase livestock productivity, increase soil quality and reduce nutrient discharge while reducing production and economic risk, while providing benefits to the environment, resulting in more sustainable cattle enterprises (Beck et al., 2013).

Dr. Robert Rhoads, Jr. has been an Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech University (Blacksburg) since 2011. Robert received his BS, MS, and PhD in Animal Science from Cornell University and began his academic career as a faculty member in the Department of Animal Science at the University of Arizona (Tucson) in 2006. Animal performance is maximized in a narrow thermal range and when the environmental temperature threshold is exceeded, energy and nutrients are diverted from growth and work toward maintenance of an optimal body temperature. Alteration in body metabolism and hierarchy of nutrient partitioning can significantly decrease animal performance by affecting the extent and composition of BW gain, which results in a negative financial burden on animal agriculture. Rhoad’s research focus is on the impact that hyperthermia can have on animal growth and performance (Rhoads et al., 2013). Rhoads evaluates the effects of heat stress on mammalian growth and development with an emphasis on the investigation of cellular and molecular mechanisms governing skeletal muscle size and regeneration, as well as whole-animal metabolism. Rhodes’s research indicates that hyperthermic animals initiate a variety of post-absorptive metabolic changes that are in large part independent of reduced feed intake and whole-animal energy balance. The hyperthermic animals appear to employ ‘glucose sparing’ mechanisms to homeorhetically prioritize performance, thereby creating a ‘metabolically inflexible’ situation where reliance on carbohydrate use and glycolysis is favored over mobilization of adipose tissue (Rhoads et al., 2013). These survival strategies reduce productivity and seriously jeopardize farm economics.

Dr. Kelly Swanson is an Associate Professor of Animal Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana. Swanson completed his BS, MS, and PhD degrees as well as postdoctoral training at the University Illinois. Dogs and cats are different than many livestock species in that they have evolved by eating diets high in fat and protein and low in carbohydrates. The gastrointestinal microbiota have a key role in the gut and overall host health of these species. Early experiments in the research field of gastrointestinal microbiota used culture-based techniques to evaluate the effects of dietary ingredients like fiber and prebiotics on microbiota and indices of gut health. These studies were limited in scope and lacked precision as it pertained to the gastrointestinal microbiota. Current molecular DNA-based techniques have greatly upgraded research capabilities and have provided a more detailed view of canine and feline gastrointestinal microbiomes. Swanson’s research is focused on the nutrition, gut health, and obesity in cats and dogs. He uses genomic biology to study nutrition-related problems in the areas of ‘obesity’ and ‘intestinal health’. Swanson’s research uses applied nutrition research projects along with genomic sequencing tools to analyze microbes and gut-lining cells in cat and dog intestines. He was one of the first scientists to use molecular based tools to advance the understanding of companion animal nutrition. Swanson has provided a foundation in understanding of the canine and feline gastrointestinal microbiomes that can be used to identify specific pathogens or disease signatures that could prove to be useful in disease diagnosis and/or treatment (Kerret et al., 2013). Further research will be needed to increase the general understanding of the gastrointestinal microbiome, how the microbiome impacts host health, and how factors like age, genetic, or environmental factors can influence the composition of the microbiome.

These 5 individuals are deserving recipients of ASAS Early Career Achievement Awards. Each one of them is unique in their research area ranging from applied animal research, basic physiology and endocrinology, and the use of newly developed molecular research techniques. Each one of them has provided significant contributions to the mission of ASAS. These contributions range from increasing farm animal production, enhancing environmental and economic sustainability, increasing our understanding of basic animal physiology, and all while assuring animal well-being. Please congratulate these 5 individuals for their successes and excellent contributions to our society.




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