It seems fitting: Oklahoma State University’s Tyson Ochsner, professor and holder of the Sarkeys Distinguished Professorship in Agricultural Science, has been named the 2018 Sarkeys Distinguished Professor Award recipient.
No, they are not the same thing. Presented annually by OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the Sarkeys award recognizes outstanding contributions to agriculture through teaching, research or Extension efforts. The award was established by the Sarkeys Foundation in 1980 to honor Elmo Baumann, an agronomist who worked with the foundation after his retirement from OSU.
“I am truly honored to have my name considered, given Dr. Baumann was a distinguished scientist in my own department long before my time,” Ochsner said. “The list of past winners for this award included people who have been my teachers and mentors, and who have been an inspiration to me during my career.”
An OSU faculty member since 2008, Ochsner is widely recognized as an authority in the area of soil physics and is sought after as a research collaborator and invited speaker on a regional, national and international basis. His research has generated 69 peer-reviewed journal articles, 32 invited presentations across the globe and more than $35 million in grant awards for which he was the principal or co-principal investigator.
“Dr. Ochsner’s work in the area of soil-water balance has been instrumental in understanding the water limitations for winter wheat production in the southern Great Plains states, demonstrating how our current production systems do not necessarily benefit from years of high rainfall,” said Jeff Edwards, head of OSU’s department of plant and soil sciences.
Edwards added Ochsner has the rare ability to explain complex scientific concepts in easily understood ways and has showcased a talent for turning “scientific discoveries into usable products that enhance the lives of everyday Oklahomans.”
“His work in developing the Canopeo app, for example, has greatly benefited the agricultural community through improved grazing management and accurate measurement of defoliation from pests and weather events,” Edwards said. “This app has exceeded 7,900 users, which speaks to its usefulness and value.”
Iowa State University soil scientist Robert Horton said Ochsner’s major contributions not only include a number of impressive soil science discoveries, they include successful communication of the importance of soils to students.
“He is a marvelous ambassador for soil science and Oklahoma State,” Horton said. “He has achieved great success in teaching and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students. He is innovative in the classroom, and cultivates personal and caring one-on-one relationships with students.”
For his part, Ochsner is always quick to credit his scientific collaborators and students for being instrumental to whatever success he has had as a researcher.
“We have achieved far more together than I would have alone,” he said. “Our research has changed the way soil moisture is monitored, shaped people’s understanding of soil-water dynamics in croplands and grasslands, and influenced the ways drought, wildfire danger and groundwater recharge are evaluated.”
A Cowboy alumnus, Ochsner earned his bachelor’s degree in environmental science from OSU in 1998. He earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in soil physics from Iowa State University in 2000 and 2003, respectively. He then served as a soil scientist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service from 2003 to 2008, prior to joining the OSU faculty.
DASNR also honored Ochsner last year as its 2017 recipient of the James A. Whatley Award for Meritorious Service in Agricultural Science.