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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Oklahoma State University names Ochsner and Wilson to prestigious professorship

STILLWATER, Okla. – Tyson Ochsner and Gail Wilson of Oklahoma State University’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources have been named Sarkeys Distinguished Professorship recipients.

The DASNR professorship is awarded in recognition of individuals who have achieved a significant level of excellence while at OSU, as determined by a selection committee. The action was approved Oct. 24 by the Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents.

Ochsner, an associate professor of applied soil physics, is internationally renowned in his career field, working with scientists in environmental science, climatology, agronomy, genetics and biofuels development.

“Tyson’s career goal is to help people better understand and appreciate the soil, soil-water balance and surface energy balance to more effectively manage and make use of finite land and water resources,” said Dave Porter, head of OSU’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

Porter said Ochsner has developed an expansive network of cooperating partners within OSU and around the world that rely on him to service vital components of their own scientific endeavors.

“Especially noteworthy is his cooperative work with the Oklahoma Mesonet and the entire team of OSU and University of Oklahoma scientists affiliated with the project,” said Bill Raun, OSU Regents professor of soil fertility.

The Oklahoma Mesonet is a world-class network of environmental monitoring stations designed and implemented by OSU and OU scientists. It consists of 120 automated stations across Oklahoma, with at least one station in each of the state’s 77 counties.

“Dr. Ochsner’s vision has led to added Mesonet stations,” Raun said. “He has further taken the initiative to develop an in-season prediction tool for soil profile moisture used to predict yield levels and refine fertilizer nitrogen recommendations, key elements of the state’s multi-billion dollar agricultural sector.”

Ochsner has amassed 40 refereed journal publications, published two book chapters and has served as principal investigator or co-principal investigator on grants totaling more than $34 million.

He joined the OSU faculty in 2008, and is also an alumnus, having earned his Bachelor of Science degree in environmental science in 1998 from the division’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. He earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from Iowa State University in 2000 and 2003, respectively.

Wilson, a professor in the OSU Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, leads or is a major partner in research programs that are strongly collaborative with scientists at OSU, the Argonne National Laboratory, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, Kansas State University and a number of other universities across the United States.

“Gail’s research focuses on the linkages and feedbacks between plants and nutrient cycles,” said Keith Owens, interim associate director of DASNR’s statewide Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station system. “She works on a topic that is invisible to most of us because it is belowground, but these processes are key drivers of rangeland management and stability, as well as forest management and restoration practices and biofuels production.”

Wilson has published 75 peer-reviewed manuscripts in highly regarded scientific journals, and has secured more than $8 million in grants from highly competitive funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Agriculture, among others.

Mike Miller of the Argonne National Laboratory has endorsed Wilson, stating “her work is truly amazing, ranging from the genetics of mycotrophy in wheat, to the role of mycorrhizal fungi in the invasiveness of non-native grasses, to the contributions of roots and mycorrhizal fungi to nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration.”

"I would consider her experiences with wheat, sorghum, switchgrass, big bluestem and Eurasian bluestem grasses place her in a very small community of scientists, especially as related to belowground traits,” he said.

Wilson joined the OSU faculty in 2007, following a four-year stint with the division of biology at Kansas State University. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology, while minoring in geology, from Mercyhurst University in 1979 and her master’s degree in biology from Slippery Rock University in 1983. She earned her doctoral degree in agronomy from KSU in 2003.

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