BELTSVILLE, MARYLAND, U.S. — Three scientists have been named to the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Science Hall of Fame for their research in agriculture sustainability, swine disease and control, and fungi of major significance to agricultural production, food safety and public health.
Carroll P. Vance, Joan K. Lunney and Kerry L. O’Donnell were inducted into the ARS National Agricultural Library in Beltsville, Maryland, U.S. The ARS established the Science Hall of Fame in 1986 to honor senior agency researchers for outstanding, lifelong achievements in agricultural science and technology.
“Our three inductees have made significant contributions through innovation, dedication and hard work in developing strategies to address important issues facing agriculture today,” said Chavonda Jacobs-Young, ARS administrator. “They exemplify the values that have made ARS a premier agency and worldwide leader in agricultural research.”
O’Donnell, a microbiologist at the ARS Mycotoxin Prevention and Applied Microbiology Research Unit in Peoria, Illinois, U.S., conducts research using DNA sequencing technologies that has helped create a new era of molecular analyses of fungal species diversity and their evolutionary histories. His discovery that the genus Fusarium comprises more than 300 phylogenetically distinct species, far greater than previously thought, made him a leading authority on this large and important group of molds, many of which produce chemicals called mycotoxins that are harmful to humans and other animals.
Vance, a retired ARS supervisory plant physiologist who worked at the agency’s Plant Science Research Unit in St. Paul, Minnesota, is an international authority on plant physiology whose research on legumes is helping to ensure agricultural sustainability at a time when population growth is increasing global demand for food. His work has focused on how crops respond to nutrient-deficient soils, legume genomics and symbiotic nitrogen fixation (SNF), which gives rhizobia bacteria in legumes the ability to form root structures vital to plant development. Vance has made contributions to increasing the genetic diversity of soybeans, producing 30,000 lines that have been used worldwide and led to many improved varieties. His studies of alfalfa, lupine and common bean have increased understanding of how they develop, regulate SNF, and respond to nutrient deficiencies common to many soils.
Lunney, a supervisory research scientist at the ARS Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, U.S., is an internationally recognized expert in swine immunology, genomics and the genetics of resistance to infectious diseases. Lunney’s early research uncovered immune mechanisms by which swine resist the most important zoonotic foodborne parasites (Trichinella spiralis and Toxoplasma gondii). Recently, she has focused on porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). She also co-leads the PRRS Host Genetics Consortium, which has identified genes associated with improved growth and resistance to PRRS. Lunney and her team developed molecular reagents that are now used for verifying the efficacy of pig vaccine responses and for probing protective immune pathways for future treatments and therapeutics.