Fred Provenza, a professor in Utah State University’s Department of Wildland Resources in the College of Natural Resources, is the recipient of the 2008 D. Wynne Thorne Career Research Award, presented by USU’s Vice President for Research Office.
For the past 30 years, Provenza’s team has produced ground-breaking research that laid the foundations for what is now known as behavior-based management of livestock, wildlife and landscapes. This research has led to the creation in 2001 of a consortium that includes scientists and land managers from five continents. The consortium, known as BEHAVE (Behavioral Education for Human, Animal, Vegetation and Ecosystem), is committed to integrating behavioral principles and processes with local knowledge to enhance ecological, economic and social values of rural and urban communities and landscapes.
“Fred Provenza is progressive and innovative,” said Brent Miller, vice president for research. “His work in behavior-based management pushes the boundaries and has set the bar in this discipline very high.”
Named after USU’s first vice president for research, the D. Wynne Thorne Career Research Award is the most prestigious research accolade given by USU. The award is given annually to one outstanding university researcher who is recommended by a committee of peers, all previous award recipients. Nominees are evaluated by letters from nationally known experts in their field of study.
“[Provenza’s] work has added significantly to the reputation that USU enjoys as an international leader in the field of rangeland ecology and management,” said Johan T. du Toit, head of the Department of Wildland Resources. “His work has been an inspiration to researchers in a diverse range of disciplines and is changing the mindset of enlightened livestock producers and rangeland managers around the world.”
BEHAVE is dedicated to enabling people to use understanding of behavior to learn to appreciate that our differences are our collective strengths in sustaining landscapes that integrate diverse ecological, economic and social values and services. In this learning process, everyone is a student attempting to better understand behavior at all levels from genes to landscapes.
The BEHAVE network
focuses its research on three areas of applied science: 1) how experiences early in life affect food and habitat selection, 2) how herbivores regulate intake of primary and secondary compounds in plants, and 3) the importance of variety in food and habitat selection.
“Our health is tied to the health of the land,” said Provenza. “Thus, we gear our research to provide stimulating insights into the linkages between behavior and ecology and elucidate relations among soils, plants, herbivores and people. We show how the health of people is linked to the wellbeing of soils through plants and herbivores.”
“Fred’s research has been an inspiration and, in a sense, a guiding light, for much of the research around the world, including mine, on the intricate and subtle influence that phenotypic plasticity behavior can have on plant-herbivore interactions,” said Clare McArthur, professor of biological sciences at the University of Sydney, in Australia. “He fully deserves to be recognized as a leader in brining behavior into focus in a range of fundamental and applied ecological disciplines, as a great mentor for students, and as a prolific writer and speaker on complex and enlightening research.”
Provenza’s work has become a keystone in the field of rangeland ecology. Since the initiation of BEHAVE, Provenza has given 96 invited presentations at national and international conferences. His work has inspired researchers in vastly diverse disciplines including chemical ecology, ruminant nutrition, human nutrition and biopsychology, animal welfare, landscape restoration ecology, pasture and rangeland science and management, and rural sociology and ecodevelopment.
As senior author or coauthor, Provenza has published 160 original research articles in peer-reviewed journals and another 70 invited synthesis papers in journals, books and proceedings. His most cited paper has been cited 224 times, which signifies the impact he has made on his field of study. In 1999, he received the W.R. Chapline Research Award from the Society for Range Management for outstanding research accomplishments. This is the most prestigious research award given by the society.
“I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Dr. Provenza’s professional achievements and believe that his research career is absolutely astounding,” said Xavier Manteca, associate professor of veterinary science at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain. “Throughout his career, Dr. Provenza has been able to combine a very high academic quality with a practical approach, showing how high-profile scientific research can be extremely useful to solve real-life problems.”
Provenza received the D. Wynne Thorne Award at the USU Research Awards Luncheon March 31, 2008, from Vice President for Research Brent Miller. He will give the annual D. Wynne Thorne lecture at the 2009 Awards Luncheon.