The 2018 NAAB Research Award recipient is Dr. Richard Pursley. Dr. Pursley earned a B.S. in Dairy Production and M.S. in Reproductive Physiology from Kansas State University, followed by a Ph.D. in Reproductive Physiology from University of Wisconsin-Madison. During his Ph.D. training, Dr. Pursley co-developed with Dr. Milo Wiltbank what is now the world’s most widely used ovulation synchronization protocol called "Ovsynch". According to Hoard's Dairyman, Ovsynch is one of the best and most economical timed AI programs ever developed for the dairy industry. In 2007, the impact of Dr. Pursley's research and extension programs was recognized as one of four USDA-CSREES projects (selected from 400) with the greatest impact in U.S. agriculture. Dr. Pursley's seminal 1995 paper on Ovsynch was listed recently as one of the 100 most influential science papers you should read before you die (no. 7 in all reproductive biology). The Ovsynch technology caused a paradigm shift in applied reproductive research in dairy and beef cattle. Since the original paper, a significant number of applied reproductive papers presented each year at the American Dairy Science Association have dealt with Ovsynch technology.
Pursley has dairy farmer "roots" and a long-term commitment to extensive dissemination of the results of his research and extension approaches to the dairy industry that together have improved fertility in dairy cows. His extension presentations and Bovine Reproduction and Education (BRED) programs on dairy cattle reproduction have directly educated over 3000 dairy veterinarians representing an estimated 4,000,000 dairy cows.
Dr. Pursley has also garnered more than $4,000,000 in intramural and extramural grants; an impressive accomplishment. Professor Pursley emphasizes modern and in-depth training for his graduate and undergraduate students and visiting scientists, which is critical for the future development of next generation of animal scientists.
He has numerous publications and has given 349 invited and extension presentations during his 21-year career at Michigan State University, coupled with his extensive record of internal and external service. He has been an external tenure evaluator at various universities, on editorial boards, reviewer for several scientific journals and USDA NIFA proposals and has been involved with various USDA Regional Research Projects. He also continues to serve on numerous Michigan State committees including mentoring young faculty in his Department.
His original research idea was to utilize Ovsynch as a model to better understand the principles of improving fertility of lactating dairy cows. His research established that Ovsynch could be used to control follicle and corpus luteum function to enhance the success of fixed-time AI. His subsequent published work demonstrated that a pre-synchronization program for Ovsynch (G6G), enhanced fertility by controlling follicle age, size and function through the strategic use of GnRH. This research helped "pave the way" to a greater understanding of critical markers for fertility of cattle.
It’s been stated that Dr. Pursley's discoveries related to timed AI of dairy cattle resulted in the most significant adoption of an applied reproductive technology that enhances AI use in the history of the dairy industry. He has also reached a multitude of followers with an innovative website that put his outreach programs at the leading edge of today's extension efforts. His nationwide workshops and stimulating website illustrate his ability to reach people in multiple ways. Once one sees his two animated cows "Blaze N Star" talk about reproduction, it is easy to see why his extension innovations have been so successful.
Dr. Pursley's educational and outreach efforts in Michigan, the U.S. and beyond are remarkable and have reached dairy farmers in almost every region of the world. His train-the-trainer seminars, workshops for veterinarians and consultants and on-line websites have been impactful and effective.
Dr. Richard Pursley is an excellent scientist and has worked in other areas including superovulation, oocyte development, and male and female fertility in cattle. His current work on the role of progesterone in fertility of dairy cattle has contributed to the understanding of how to further improve Ovsynch and manipulate the reproductive cycle to improve conception rates in dairy cattle.
Pursley's entire life has been focused on the dairy cow. It began with his first 4-H project and continued when he was a dairy farmer. His experience growing up on a farm, owning a farm, and managing his farm instilled an indelible framework for his career. His first-hand experience with the dairy industry ensured he would better understand the significance of the issues linked to it in his 21-year academic career as an Extension Dairy Specialist at Michigan State University. Due to his well-established and instrumental role in developing, improving and explaining how to use Ovsynch technology, critical to the enhancement of AI outcomes, he is very worthy to receive the 2018 NAAB Research Award.