A University of Florida animal sciences graduate research professor emeritus has won the 2018 International Ruminant Reproduction Symposium Pioneer Award (IRRS), given to scientists who have trained students and made major contributions to understanding reproductive biology in cattle.
Bill Thatcher won the award at the 10th IRRS, held in Iguacu Fos, Brazil, Sept. 16-20. This award is one of the more than 20 scientific awards Thatcher has received during his academic career.
“I am extremely humbled and ecstatic because the accomplishments recognized are highly integrated with interdisciplinary efforts involving students and academic colleagues in a cross-section of scientific disciplines to improve performance of dairy cattle,” said Thatcher, a faculty member in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS). “I feel that it is an international award that exemplifies a collective scientific effort, which has benefitted animal production for mankind.”
Throughout his career, Thatcher has mentored his graduate students in CALS to use scientific methods to develop new knowledge and solutions to solve problems affecting animal agriculture.
He has advised 73 graduate students in CALS, postdoctoral fellows, sabbatical scientists and visiting trainees. Graduate students and post-doctorates who worked for Thatcher have taken positions as faculty members, industry scientists and industry technical service specialists in 30 countries.
Many of those Thatcher has mentored have become recognized leaders in their area of work and formed a legacy that has impacted science. Some also teach cattle reproduction.
In addition to his work as a mentor, Thatcher is known worldwide for helping scientists, UF/IFAS Extension faculty and producers understand the reproductive biology of cattle.
He and other scientists targeted a 49-year interdisciplinary program to improve reproductive performance during periods of seasonal heat stress – May to October each year. The research also shed light on the basic mechanisms controlling the reproductive cycle and pregnancy. That research led to timed insemination protocols on dairy farms, improved restoration of fertility, and better health for lactating cows after the calf is born.
Peers also credit Thatcher with influencing how producers and veterinarians think and manage dairy cattle reproduction. As his career progressed, Thatcher integrated concepts on reproductive management with his colleagues in nutrition, health and genetics to improve reproduction of lactating dairy cows.
Thatcher has been invited to 50 countries to give lectures and seminars to extend knowledge in dairy cattle reproduction and management. He has published more than 50 book chapters and 400 scientific peer-reviewed articles.
“Dr. Thatcher’s impact has extended to all corners of the world in which dairy cattle are raised to produce food for humans,” said Charlie Staples, professor and interim chair of the UF/IFAS animal sciences department.