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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Rumen Expert, Microbe Namesake, Notches 2008 OARDC Senior Faculty Research Award

April 22, 2008

WOOSTER, Ohio — Ohio State University’s Burk A. Dehority, an international expert on rumen microbiology who has two protozoan species named in his honor, has added to his recognition in a dark, wet, hard-to-see field.


A professor in the Department of Animal Sciences, Dehority has received the 2008 Distinguished Senior Faculty Research Award from the university’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC).

The award, presented each year at the OARDC Annual Research Conferece, recognizes outstanding achievements by an OARDC faculty member at the rank of professor. Winners receive a plaque, $1,000 and $3,000 for their research project’s operating expense account.

In five decades of teaching and research, Dehority “has opened ‘the black box’ of the rumen for students and researchers in the United States and abroad,” his nominators said.

The rumen is the first of four chambers in the stomach of ruminants, or cud-chewing animals. Billions of microbes may live there. They break down cellulose, the main part of plant tissue, and make it digestible to their host.

Cattle, for example, are ruminants.

“The role of ruminants in intensive and extensive (agricultural) production systems depends on a better understanding of the function of rumen microorganisms,” the nominators noted. “In this sense, Dehority’s discoveries have enabled the animal-science community to understand the unique function of (the rumen) as well as to develop economic feeding strategies that meet the nutrient requirements of individual animals and allow for the use of alternative feedstuffs.”

Dehority’s achievements, among others, include publishing a laboratory manual containing his drawings of and identification keys for rumen protozoa, a first in the field and in wide use worldwide; isolating and identifying the rumen bacteria species primarily responsible for degrading and utilizing the structural carbohydrates in forages; showing the synergy between bacterial species in the digestion of those carbohydrates, the first direct demonstration of such activity; and studying both domestic and wild ruminants and marsupials, work that could someday lead to the use of other kinds of ruminants for food production.

The protozoan species that bear his name are Dasytricha dehorityi from kangaroos in Australia and Eudiplodinium dehorityi from Turkish cattle.

Dehority has authored or co-authored 159 peer-reviewed journal articles, 10 book chapters and two books; has advised 14 master’s degree students and 10 doctoral students; has attracted numerous postdoctoral and visiting scientists to his lab from around the world; and has served on the editorial board of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. He received the Department of Animal Sciences Research Award in 2000 and Ohio State’s Gamma Sigma Delta Award in 1978.

He joined OARDC, then the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station, in 1959 and served as associate chair of the Department of Animal Sciences from 1981-1994.

He holds a doctorate in agricultural biochemistry from Ohio State, a master’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Maine and an A.B. degree in chemistry from Blackburn College, Carlinville, Ill.

OARDC is the research arm of the university’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

OARDC’s annual conference, held April 17 in Wooster, focused on a theme of “Recasting Our Agbioscience Research Agenda: Integrated Projects.”

Jan Weisenberger, senior associate vice president for research at Ohio State, gave the keynote address.

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Link: Aug. 9, 2001, Ohio State press release, “Gut Check: New Cattle Microbe Named for OSU Scientist,”

Kurt Knebusch
OARDC Director's Office