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Innovation Profile:
Dr. Jason Ross

Building the next generation of animal agriculture leaders

Iowa State University is known as an epicenter for research and development in the animal science sector. At the heart of that epicenter is former Iowa Pork Industry Center (IPIC) Director and newly named Iowa State University Animal Science Department Chair, Dr. Jason Ross.

Dr. Ross discovered his interest in swine reproduction and biotechnology while pursuing his undergraduate education at Iowa State University and working for surrounding pork producers as a student. This newfound passion led him to Oklahoma State University where he earned his Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees, followed by two years of work as a postdoctoral fellow after graduating with his PhD in 2006. He began his faculty research career at Iowa State in 2008 and was named the director of the Iowa Pork Industry Center in 2015. That position has recently been passed on to Chris Rademacher as Dr. Jason Ross transitions into his new role as chair of the Animal Science Department at Iowa State University this summer.

Serving as a driving force behind developing innovative technologies and techniques for producers to implement into their operations, Dr. Ross and his team at IPIC catapulted the Iowa pork industry back to success after the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Collectively, the swine faculty and staff across campus combined expertise, relationships and effort to help facilitate an aggressive outreach effort to provide rapid, research-based information to facilitate producer decision making during the supply chain disruption,” said Dr. Ross. “This involved many teams from across campus pulling in many directions to provide information on many topics with a singular goal: to support producers as rapidly as possible when making decisions during the pandemic.”

Some of the outputs provided throughout the pandemic included rapid response research that influenced management strategies, economic modeling for stakeholders, participation in the Iowa Resource Coordination Center and numerous webinars for producers that ranged in topics from mental health resiliency to economic recovery.

Although the Iowa Pork Industry Center’s efforts were heightened during the pandemic, the faculty and staff at IPIC consistently work year-round to provide proper education and training, producer advising and establish research collaborations to address emerging issues. Dr. Ross explains that the products of these efforts are then assembled into effective dissemination strategies. Some of these strategies include annual conferences like Iowa Swine Day, websites, fact sheets, newsletters, articles and more.

“We have also led significant projects involving many organizations and partners, such as our Improving Pig Livability Project, which includes a robust set of applied research experiments coupled to a nationally effective extension and outreach effort.”

All of the extraordinary work at IPIC is made possible through their many partnerships with key organizations, departments and agencies. When asked how this spirit of collaboration impacts the effectiveness of executing IPIC’s mission, Dr. Jason Ross responded by saying “Most solutions for complex problems require collective and diverse approaches.”

By combining the work of Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture & Life Sciences with that of the College of Veterinary Medicine, IPIC has mastered that approach in an effort to reach common goals within the industry and become a hub of information for producers and consumers alike.

Looking ahead to his next role, Dr. Ross is excited for what’s to come as chair of the Animal Science Department. He is confident in his goal that Iowa State University will remain “one of the most influential animal science departments in the world.” With more than 1,000 students enrolled, the Department of Animal Science continues to be an international source of superlative talent for industry professionals and employers.

“Very few animal science departments provide the comprehensive education to students that we offer coupled with our internationally recognized research programs. Our department and faculty programs reflect animal agriculture in Iowa, and it will be our goal to provide a competitive advantage to our students and stakeholders,” he said.