UW Reclamation Resource Scientist Receives Lifetime Teaching Honor | News

January 4, 2022

Pete stahl

A professor whose teaching and research focuses on reclamation issues of national and international significance has received a Lifetime Teaching Honor from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming.

Pete Stahl received the Andrew Vanvig Lifetime Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award in December. The award honors a senior faculty member with at least 15 years of service in the college.

The nominator, retired professor and former department head Steve Williams, says universities typically have faculty members who focus on their own accomplishments and seek recognition.

“There are others that seem a bit under the radar but are working beautifully, generating highly applicable and useful products and not seeking recognition,” said Williams. “Peter Stahl is one of that second guy.”

Stahl recently retired as director of the Wyoming Reclamation and Restoration Center (WRRC) at the college. He joined the university as a temporary assistant professor of soil ecology in 1995 and became a full professor in 2009 in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management.

Stahl received his bachelor’s degree in plant pathology from Oklahoma State University and his masters and doctorate degrees. in botany at UW. He has done postdoctoral work at the National Science Foundation Center for Microbial Ecology and the Long Term Ecology Research Site in Agricultural Ecology at Michigan State University and the National Soil Tilth Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

Jay Norton, professor of soil science and soil scientist at UW Extension, first met Stahl at the Tilth Lab while he was working on his masters. Stahl was a member of a group of scientists who laid the groundwork for what would later become the current soil health movement by developing methods to define and quantify soil quality, Norton says.

Stahl’s later use of microbial analysis of phosolipid fatty acids to identify and quantify functional groups of soil organisms “has had a tremendous influence on understanding the impact of drastic soil disturbances – such as surface mining – on soil ecology and how soil organisms support ecosystem recovery, ”says Norton.

He met Stahl again while he was working on his doctorate. on the soils of the Zuni Indian Reservation in New Mexico. Williams was a co-principal investigator on the grant, and had assigned his postdoctoral student – Stahl – to carry out much of the sampling.

“It was a pleasure working with Pete on the Zuni Reservation,” Norton says. “His love of working in the field and his fondness for different cultural experiences and storytelling led him to truly sympathize with our Zuni farmer collaborators in a way that has enriched the experience for all of us. “

Stahl then encouraged Norton to apply for the fertility specialist position at UW.

Stahl’s work over the past 20 years has spanned the restoration and reclamation of significantly disturbed mined lands, soils from burnt sites overgrown with unwanted plants, restoration of oil and gas areas as well as work in the agriculture, Williams said.

Over the past 10 years, Stahl has also engaged in research in Nepal, particularly with forest restoration.

Dean Barb Rasco of the College of Natural Resources of Agriculture congratulates Stahl on his long-standing work in the reclamation of the state, the region and the world.

“Pete’s work has had an international impact through his leadership in programs in Central and Eastern Europe, Mongolia and Nepal,” she says. “His engagement with Nepalese academics on campus and at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu has done a lot to improve the environment and the quality of life in this mountainous region of the world.

Stahl was appointed WRRC Director in 2009. Housed within the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, the center focuses on energy and natural resource development activities.

Norton notes that Stahl’s efforts to secure science-based restoration had a place at the table as the energy industry and the UW School of Energy Resources negotiated with state and federal agencies on how to protect , restore and mitigate the valuable sagebrush-steppe grasslands for the sage-grouse. and many other endemic wildlife.

Stahl’s work and the work of the WRRC have been essential to the sustainability of much of Wyoming’s energy industry, but also to the preservation and sustainability of wildlife, said Frank Galey, former Dean of Wyoming. agricultural college, now vice president and rector of Utah State University. . He also notes Stahl’s commitment to undergraduate and graduate students, stretching them and helping them understand and become leaders in the field themselves.

One such alumnus is Caley Gasch, an assistant professor of soil health research at North Dakota State University.

Stahl clearly has an enthusiasm for the organic underground world, but recognizes the importance of framing this knowledge in a way that is relevant to other disciplines, land management and agriculture, she says.

“He instilled this perspective in me, and many other mentees, who now work in balancing the search for new and fundamental scientific questions while placing this work in a larger applied context,” says Gasch.

Norton notes Stahl’s influence on his peers.

“His generosity in providing opportunities for younger faculty members through his relationships with funders of salvage and restoration work, and in enthusiastically sharing knowledge of basic microbial ecology, laboratory methods , successful teaching, and even the best ski trails and fishing holes, has enhanced my success at UW and my love for Wyoming, as well as that of many of my colleagues, ”Norton said.

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