Biomass wastes, especially livestock manures and food-processing wastes, represent both a huge renewable energy source and challenge to the environment. The unique biomass wastes-to-energy research program strives to efficiently convert manures and food-processing wastes to methane biogas through anaerobic digestion and then to convert biogas to electricity through fuel cells. Current research projects are funded by federal, state, and private sectors and seek to develop highly efficient anaerobic digestion processes, to develop on-line monitoring and control devices, to understand the microbiology driving the anaerobic digestion processes, and to develop fuel cells capable of directly converting biogas to electricity. Another important research area centers on reducing the negative impact of the US livestock industry on climate change. Both nutritional and microbiological research projects are underway to develop knowledge-based new rations and feeding regimens to reduce ammonia secretion and methane emission from dairy and beef cattle, enhancing nutrient retention while reducing output of global warming effect.
Thaddeus Ezeji, PhD
Dr. Ezeji’s research program is in the area of fermentation biology focusing on research and outreach in microbial conversion of animal and food industry wastes to bio-energy and other value-added products. Research emphasis is on metabolomics and processes regulating the conversion of agricultural byproducts, co-products, or wastes into biofuel and value-added products.
Zhongtang Yu, PhD
Dr. Yu is interested in ecological studies of microorganisms inside (mainly the gastrointestinal track) and outside (the surrounding environments) of food animals that are important to animal nutrition and health. His second research interest centers on the microbiological underpinning of anaerobic digestion of biomass wastes to methane biogas. Current projects are under way to define the phylogenetic and functional diversity and to examine the impact of feedstocks and operations on the microbial population dynamics and community structure in anaerobic digesters. He is also interested in the ecological studies of antibiotic resistance originating from food-animal production.
Bill Weiss, PhD
Dr. Weiss’s major research interests are: 1) feed evaluation with emphasis on energy values, 2) factors affecting manure and nutrient excretion by dairy cows, 3) trace mineral and vitamin nutrition of dairy cows with emphasis on cow health and 4) effect of variation in nutrient composition of diets on cow efficiency, productivity, and health.
Normand St-Pierre, PhD
Dr. St-Pierre conducts ongoing research in management and nutritional strategies to reduce nutrient excretion, including amino acid supplementation of ruminant diets, and prediction of nutrient excretion (with Dr. William (Bill) Weiss).
Ramesh Selvaraj, PhD
Dr. Selvaraj’s research interests are to evaluate poultry’s immune regulatory cells and their applications to boost the immune response to fight infection or to suppress excessive pro-inflammatory immune response to decrease mortality. His goal is to understand the nuclear hormone receptor signaling as influenced by dietary factors. In addition, Dr. Selvaraj’s lab looks at ways to enrich poultry products with nutrients like lutein, CLA, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Mark Morrison, PhD
Dr. Morrison is involved with several microbiology research projects including the molecular biology of cellulose degradation, bacterial adhesion to surfaces, and the microbial ecology of antibiotic resistance genes.
The Department of Animal Sciences is well equipped with technical expertise and research facilities, including: anaerobic digesters of different scales with sophisticated monitoring and controls; well equipped and staffed laboratories for microbiology, nutrition, feed, chemistry; dedicated research farms of dairy, beef, sheep, swine, poultry, and equine; and sophisticated computing capabilities to model and analyze research results. Both classical microbiological methods and molecular biology techniques (e.g., real-time PCR, recombinant DNA techniques, DGGE), metagenomics, comparative genomics, proteomics, and microarrays are employed.