By Daniel C. Ciobanu, University of Nebraska
A leading USDA researcher was recently bestowed with a distinguished award from the National Swine Improvement Federation. During the recent annual NSIF meeting held in Nashville, Tenn. last month, Gary Rohrer, acting research leader at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center from Clay Center, Neb. was recognized with the Charles Stanislaw Memorial Distinguished Service Award. The purpose of the NSIF award is “to recognize individuals for their record of distinguished service to the pork industry through involvement in creating, implementing, supervising and/or participating in genetic improvement programs.”
Rohrer grew up in northern Illinois and received his bachelor's in animal science from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and his master's and doctorate in animal breeding and genetics from Texas A & M. Since 1991 he has served as a research scientist at USMARC where he became a leader in the field of swine genetics and genomics.
Rohrer’s lab is prominent in both the commercial industry as well as academia and is known for extraordinary contributions in generating population and genetic resources, as well as phenotypic and genomic data for understanding the role of genetics in explaining phenotypic variation of important traits in swine. More recently, Rohrer’s contributions were essential to the success of the novel field of swine genomics. Specifically, his major contributions include the development of the very first comprehensive genetic and physical maps of the pig genome, both essential in the process of fully sequencing the porcine genome. He was involved in all major activities that led to the sequencing of the first swine genome; he participated in the tedious process of obtaining funds; development of strategies, scientific and data support, interpretation, and finally dissemination of the results.
Rohrer also participated in the development of the first high-density genotyping platform designed for pigs (Porcine SNP60 BeadArray), a platform capable of simultaneously genotyping over 60,000 DNA markers per pig. The tool made a tremendous impact in swine genetic improvement across the globe. In addition, his work now is focused on discovery of DNA markers used routinely by the industry to improve a wide variety of traits from growth and fertility, to behavior, and meat quality.
In his acceptance speech, Rohrer acknowledged his colleagues and mentors from USMARC especially Dr. Dan Laster, former director of USMARC, who provided support and guidance during his formative years. Scientists and producers from Nebraska recognized with this prestigious award in the past included Irvin Omtvedt (1982, University of Nebraska-Lincoln), Gordon Dickerson (1988, USMARC & University of Nebraska-Lincoln), Rodger Johnson (1998, University of Nebraska-Lincoln), Jim Schneider (2008, USMARC) and Max Waldo (2009, Waldo Genetics).