Charlotte Kirk Baer always had “it,” a certain something that leads people to believe she was always going to accomplish great things.
“I knew Charlotte first as a student, early in my career as an Oklahoma State University faculty member,” said Dave Freeman, professor emeritus of animal science and longtime OSU Cooperative Extension equine specialist. “Even as a ‘green’ faculty member, it was obvious to me that Charlotte was going to be a person to accomplish lofty personal and professional goals.”
Baer’s career achievements were honored by OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources during Oct. 19 ceremonies recognizing her as a 2018 CASNR Distinguished Alumnus award recipient. The division is comprised of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and two state agencies: The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service and the statewide Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station system.
“It is rare for an alumnus of any university to have accomplished so much as a scientist, administrator and policymaker for agricultural science on a national scale,” Freeman said. “I think she personifies the land-grant mission, and it is refreshing that a person who has dedicated her professional life to such has a genuine appreciation and working knowledge of production agriculture.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree in animal science from OSU in 1984, Baer’s diverse career includes stints as a research scientist with the Georgetown University Medical Center’s department of pediatrics, a staff scientist with the University of Maryland’s department of animal sciences and a research associate with the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, before joining the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
“Charlotte played a major role in directing the work of the academies’ National Research Council committee on animal nutrition, of which I was a member,” said Gary Cromwell, University of Kentucky emeritus professor of the department of animal and food sciences. “Together with several other swine nutritionists, we produced the 10th edition of Nutrient Requirements of Swine, published in 1998.”
The edition included the development of a model for estimating nutrient requirements that took into account all stages of growth, gestation and lactation, as well as gender, lean growth rate and environmental factors relative to raising pigs.
“This model was the first of its kind,” Cromwell said. “I continued to work with Charlotte to identify nutritionists and support their scientific inquiries in preparation of updates to revisions of nutrient requirement publications for several other species of agricultural animals.”
While at the National Academies, Baer directed its board on agriculture and natural resources and managed multimillion dollar programs. Following the events of Sept. 11, 2001, she instituted the first comprehensive review and national report on countering agricultural bioterrorism.
Baer left the National Academies in 2006 to join the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, where she is credited with developing the renowned National Animal Nutrition Program, which filled critical voids in the fields of animal nutrition, feed composition and modeling.
Her successful efforts to bring together animal nutritionists from across the country into a cohesive program to support research, education, and Extension have been recognized by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine; National Association of State Departments of Agriculture; and the land-grant research community.
“Charlotte is unique in having an unusually wide range of scientific interests, knowledge and experiences ranging across all species of livestock, zoo animals, pets and marine animals,” said Don Wagner, OSU professor emeritus and former head of what is now the department of animal and food sciences.
As a writer, editor and consultant for conservation organizations worldwide, Baer has applied the fundamental knowledge first gained at OSU in her work with zoos and aquariums over the years, facilitating the conservation and propagation of many of the world’s animal treasures.
Her work as chief editor of two major reference volumes, the Encyclopedia of Animal Science and Wild Mammals in Captivity, has provided the animal science profession with key sources of essential information. Baer also provides editorial support for the Association of Reptilian and Amphibious Veterinarians, American Society of Zoo Veterinarians and Comparative Nutrition Society.
“Our department was able to honor her as a distinguished graduate in 2012 and we had a difficult time trimming down her resume materials of experiences, honors and global impacts on agriculture for the presentation,” Freeman said. “It was obvious that what I had sensed from her as a student had developed even larger than I could have imagined.”