2016 AgResearch Faculty Awards

Adapted from the UTIA Awards and Promotions Luncheon script, written by Charles Denney.

J.E. Moss AgResearch Award recognizes excellent achievement in research for the Institute of Agriculture. Awards are selected by the deans of AgResearch in consultation with the UTIA chancellor. These individuals demonstrate research excellence and collegiality in their field of research.

Johne’s disease is a bacteria that strikes ruminant animals and causes more than $200 million in losses to the US agricultural economy each year. Dr. Shigetoshi Eda is a professor in the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries. He also serves as Associate Director for our Center for Wildlife Health, and has been with the Institute since 2003. Dr. Eda is working to eradicate Johne’s disease. His research looks at fighting the bacteria that causes the disease to develop in the intestines of animals, including dairy cattle. He is the recipient of the 2016 J.E. Moss AgResearch Award.

Dr. Eda led the effort to come up with an accurate diagnostic test to detect the bacteria and has worked with the UT Research Foundation to earn a patent and commercialize the method. Eda has also teamed with the UT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and together they’ve developed a portable device that can detect diseases, pathogens, and physiological conditions in animals and humans. The device can detect tuberculosis in people as well as Johne’s disease in cattle. This invention could also be useful someday in detecting cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Eda’s remarkable breakthroughs have implications far beyond our campus.

T.J. Whatley Young Scientist Award is presented to a young scientist with more than five years of service to the Institute. This faculty member should possess the aptitude, judgment, drive, and interpersonal skills to have an outstanding and productive career as an agricultural scientist.

Decomposition is the process of decaying or rotting, and whether it’s biodegradable mulch or the decomposition of carcasses, Dr. Jennifer DeBruyn studies it all. The focus of her research is centered on the roles of microorganisms in environmental processes and how they respond to environmental disturbances. DeBruyn is an environmental microbiologist in the Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science. She also has responsibilities in Extension where she conducts youth science training to 4-H educators. Dr. DeBruyn was recently granted tenure and has been promoted to associate professor. She is the recipient of the 2016 T.J. Whatley Young Scientist Award.

Dr. DeBruyn’s expertise extends beyond how things break down; she is also interested in how elements added together can create more than the sum of their individual parts. Transdisciplinary teams are the future of collaboration, and DeBruyn’s involvement in the USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) is a true multidisciplinary collaboration effort to study the use of biodegradable plastic mulch and its impact on the soil. DeBruyn is a project codirector.

Research Impact Award is presented to a UT AgResearch faculty or professional staff member whose efforts have had a profound effect on improving efficiency, sustainability, and/or economic viability of the food and fiber industry or rural areas in Tennessee.

Few scientists have made a bigger and more profound impact on Tennessee agriculture than Don Tyler. Dr. Tyler served this Institute for nearly thirty-nine years as a Professor in Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science and was stationed at the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center in Jackson. He is the recipient of the 2016 Research Impact Award.

Dr. Tyler has spent his career saving our soil. He is one of the pioneers of no-till agriculture where one crop is planted on top of the residue of a past crop to prevent erosion. Tyler’s research has saved millions of acres of topsoil, and more than 70 percent of our state’s row crop land today is no-till. He is a top expert on this critical issue and is also one of the people behind Milan No-Till Field Day, the nation's largest field day devoted to improving the production of no-till crops.

Tyler has lectured internationally and received many honors, but his greatest award came last fall when the White House named him a “Champion of Change for Sustainable Agriculture.” He was one of twelve individuals to receive this award. Dr. Tyler has recently retired and is enjoying fishing, yard work, playing pool, and grilling.