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Joan Lunney Kerry O'Donnell Caroll Vance
From left to right, Joan Lunney, Kerry O'Donnell, and Carroll P. Vance. Follow links for 300 dpi image.

Three Scientists Named to ARS Science Hall of Fame

By Sandra Avant
April 10, 2019

BELTSVILLE, MARYLAND, April 10, 2019—Three scientists have earned a place in the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Science Hall of Fame for their pioneering and impactful 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 will be inducted today in a ceremony at the ARS National Agricultural Library in Beltsville, Maryland. 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 ARS Administrator Chavonda Jacobs-Young. “They exemplify the values that have made ARS a premier agency and worldwide leader in agricultural research.”

Joan K. Lunney, a supervisory research scientist at the ARS Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, is an internationally recognized expert in swine immunology, genomics and the genetics of resistance to infectious diseases. Lunney’s early research uncovered novel 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), the most economically important viral disease of pigs worldwide. 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 essential tools for verifying the efficacy of pig vaccine responses and for probing novel protective immune pathways for future treatments and therapeutics.

Kerry L. O’Donnell, a microbiologist at the ARS Mycotoxin Prevention and Applied Microbiology Research Unit in Peoria, Illinois, is internationally recognized for innovative research that helped revolutionize the field of fungal systematics and fundamentally changed how fungi are detected, identified and classified according to their relationships. O’Donnell’s pioneering research using DNA sequencing technologies helped usher in 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.

Carroll P. 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 major 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 our understanding of how they develop, regulate SNF, and respond to nutrient deficiencies common to many soils.

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $20 of economic impact.