Leu Lectures


The first Leu Distinguished Lecture was in 1998 and served as the beginning of an annual lecture to honor the grassland heritage of Nebraska. Frank and Margaret Leu had a deep passion for education and vision for sustaining the stewardship of the Nebraska grasslands for future generations. Through the knowledge and insights of the Leu Distinguished Lecturers, Frank and Margaret Leu's vision is now and forever part of our grassland legacy.

Current and past year's Leu Distinguished Lecturers are listed below.

Leu Lecturers by Year

2023 — Alexander Smart
Protecting and sustaining South Dakota Grasslands

Alexander SmartDr. Alexander “Sandy” Smart has worked in grassland management for over 30 years. He received a BS degree in Soil Science in 1989 and an MS degree in Agronomy in 1992 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Ph.D. in Range Management from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2001. He joined the Animal and Range Sciences Department at South Dakota State University (SDSU) as an assistant professor of Range Science in 2001. He was promoted to full professor in 2011 and served as assistant department head of the Department of Natural Resource Management from 2019-2021. Since 2021, he has served as the Senior Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Leader for SDSU Extension. Throughout his career he has taught several range science course, conducted research in grazing managment and rangeland improvements, and performed outreach in support of the South Dakota Grassland Coalition. Most recently, he leads a team of Extension, NRCS, and the Mid-Missouri River Prescribed Burn Association in a woody plant control effort to protect South Dakota’s grasslands from eastern redcedar tree encroachment. He is an active member of the South Dakota Section of the Society for Range Management (SRM), has served and led national SRM committees, and was recently named a Fellow of SRM at the 2023 Annual Meeting.  

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2021 — M. Francesca Cotrufo
Advancing Understanding of Soil Organic Matter to Address XXI Century Wicked Challenges

M. Francesca Cotrufof Dr. M. Francesca Cotrufo is a professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Colorado State University (CSU). She earned B.Sc. from the University of Naples, Italy and Ph.D. from Lancaster University, UK. Prior to join CSU in 2008, she worked as a professor at University of Campania, Italy. Dr. Cotrufo is a soil ecologist and biogeochemist, internationally recognized for her work in the field of litter decomposition and soil organic matter dynamics, and in the use of isotopic methodologies in these studies. She strives to advance understanding of the mechanisms and drivers of formation and persistence of soil organic matter, and their response to global environmental changes and disturbances. She uses this understanding to improve modelling of soil C-climate feedbacks to inform climate and land use policy and management. She also pursues applied research to innovate and increase throughput of soil carbon and health testing, and to propose soil management practices that regenerate healthy soils and mitigate climate change. As a scientist fully aware of the current and future challenges expecting humanity, Dr. Cotrufo is interested in promoting research education, and outreach activities to help mitigating the current human impacts on the Earth System and assure a better sustainable path for humanity. Dr. Cotrufo is editor of the journal Global Change Biology. To date she published over 130 peer-reviewed articles and several book chapters. She has been the recipient of the SSSA Soil Science Research Award, the CSU Provost 14’er Award for Faculty Excellence, and the ASA-CSSA-SSSA Mentoring Award. Recently, she was recognized as Nutrien Distinguished Scholar of Agricultural Sciences, SSSA Francis E. Clark Distinguished Lecturer, and CSU Distinguished Resident Ecologist.

2020 — Sam Fuhlendorf
Grassland Management in the Anthropocene: Should We Look to Aldo Leopold or George Jetson?

Sam Fuhlendorf Dr. Sam Fuhlendorf is a Regents Professor and Groendyke Chair in Wildlife Management in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management (NREM) at Oklahoma State University. He will be the 2020 Leu Lecturer for the CGS Fall Seminar Series and will be presenting on rangeland ecology, conservation, pyric herbivory, and monitoring.

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2019 — Martin Massengale
A 25-year Review of the Center for Grassland Studies

Chuck West Martin A. Massengale is President, Chancellor, Founding Director and Foundation Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the University of Nebraska. A native of Kentucky, he received his Bachelor of Science degree from Western Kentucky University and his master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Wisconsin. A nationally renowned agronomist, Dr. Massengale has extensive teaching, administrative and research experience. He is a Certified Professional Agronomist and a Certified Professional Crop Scientist and has served as an agricultural consultant to Brazil, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, the U.S.S.R., Indonesia, Morocco, as well as throughout the United States. Dr. Massengale served on numerous boards of directors for larger financial institutions, insurance companies, hospitals, and communication organizations within the state. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation and the Lincoln Rotary Club #14 Foundation along with chair of its Investment Committee. Dr. Massengale was named Nebraskan of the Year in 2017.

2018 — Chuck West
Role of Forage Crops and Grazing in the Water-Limited Texas High Plains

Chuck West West's current research concentrates on quantifying the water use of forage crops and pastures as affected by grazing management in an effort to integrate forages into row-crop systems as a way to reduce the use of irrigation water while sustaining profitability of Texas High Plains agricultural systems. His recent work is on integrating grazing systems into a cotton systems, and provide an analysis of the water footprint of beef stocker systems as affected by the inclusion of alfalfa in a predominant grass system. West received his bachelor of science and master's degree in agronomy from the University of Minnesota - St. Paul, and his doctorate in crop production/physiology from Iowa State University. He directs and coordinates the Texas Coalition for Sustainable Integrated Systems Research and the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation.

2017 — David Briske
A Rangeland Odyssey: From Equilibrium to Non-equilibrium and Beyond

David BriskeDavid D. Briske is the T.M. O’Connor & Regents Professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science & Management at Texas A&M University.  His scholarship and pedagogy have focused on the ecological function and management strategies of global rangelands throughout his career.  His initial research addressed the physiology and demography of grasses, it then progressed to ecological resilience and climate change, and he is currently investigating rangelands as social-ecological systems. He served as the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Rangeland Ecology & Management from 2008 to 2015. He has edited and contributed to the volumes entitled Conservation Benefits of Rangeland Practices (USDA 2011) and Rangeland Systems: Processes, Management and Challenges (Springer 2017).

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2016 — Paul Genho
Fifty Years: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Paul GenhoPaul Genho is a Visiting Professor at the University of Florida, and an independent consultant to various agricultural firms. He served as President of Farmland Reserve, Inc., and Chairman of the Board of AgReserves, Inc. from 2005-2014, retiring from that position in June 2014. Prior to that, he managed Deseret Ranches of Florida for 17 years before moving to King Ranch in Texas where he was Vice President and General Manager for seven years. Dr. Genho has a doctorate in animal science from the Univeristy of Florida and has served in numerous leadership positions within the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, scientific, agricultural, and academic communities. He has over 50 years of experience in acquiring and managing agricultural properties worldwide.

2015 — Greg Lardy
Trends Driving Change in the Beef Industry

Greg Lardy Dr. Lardy received his bachelor degree in animal and range sciences from North Dakota State University (NDSU), a master’s in animal and range sciences, ruminant nutrition from the University of Missouri, and a doctorate in animal science, ruminant nutrition from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Prior to his current appointment as department head, he was the state beef cattle specialist at NDSU. Areas of expertise include cow-calf nutrition, beef cattle management, use of alternative feedstuffs in beef cattle diets, and forage supplementation.

2014 — David Bohnert
Trends Driving Change in the Beef Industry

David Bohnert Dr. Bohnert is a Ruminant Nutritionist and Extension Beef Cattle Specialist with Oregon State University stationed at the Eastern Oregon Agriculture Research Center in Burns, OR. He received his bachelors and masters degrees in animal science from Angelo State University and his doctorate in ruminant nutrition from the University of Kentucky. He joined the research group at the Eastern Oregon Agriculture Research Center in 1998. His current research focuses on nutritional management strategies to improve the sustainability of beef production in the Intermountain West.  In 2005 he received the Young Scientist Award from the Western Section of the American Society of Animal Science and in 2016 the Briskey Award for Faculty Excellence at Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences.

2013 — Anthony Joern
Variable Fire, Grazing, and Climate Interactions Promote Habitat Heterogeneity and Biodiversity in Tallgrass Prairie

Anthony Joern Joern received his B.S from the University of Wisconsin- Madison in Zoology and his Ph. D from the University of Texas at Austin in Zoology and Population Biology- Insect Ecology. He is a professor at Kansas State University and is leader of Joern Labs studying Herbivory Impact on Grasslands. He is continuing to address the importance of non-linear dynamic interactions among species as key factors driving grasshopper population processes. Lastly, he is interested in comparative grassland ecology with an emphasis on herbivores.  He tries to link his current and past research within the general context of grazing systems, including both bison and cattle.  He conducts research in both the Nebraska Sand Hills grassland, a huge natural sand dune system, and Konza Prairie, a tallgrass prairie with bison grazing and fire manipulations.  Some related work is planned for desert short grass prairie in New Mexico based at the Sevilleta Biological Field Station.

2012 — David Engle
Can Production Agriculture and Conservation of Biodiversity Co-exist on Great Plains Rangelands?

David Engle Dr. Engle's research is to determine the influence of rangeland management and other land management activities on ecosystem and landscape properties, including nutrient cycling, threatened and endangered species, and critical habitats,and help develop technologies that protect the rangeland resource from degradation and to promote sustainability of rangeland resources.  This includes mitigating the influence on the environment of rangeland management practices, low-density urban sprawl, and invasive species.Currently his research interests include ecology and management of prairie and savannah, and prescribed burning and fire ecology in grasslands and upland forests.

2011 — Jack Morgan
Effect of Global Climate Change on Grasslands of the Great Plains

Jack Morgan Dr. Jack Morgan is a retired plant physiologist/collaborator with the Rangeland Resources Research Unit, USDA-Agriculture Research Service. His training and experience was in photosynthesis, plant/soil water relations, and physiological plant ecology of native grasslands. His research emphasis was in understanding the effects of global climate change on western rangelands. Much of his career was on conducting research to better understand how future CO2-enriched atmospheres, warmer temperature and altered precipitation will affect the ecology and sustainability of Great Plains grasslands, and using that knowledge to develop management practices that will be appropriate for future environments. Dr. Morgan was recognized for his work in Global Change Research, and awarded the CO-LABS 2010 Governor’s Award for High-Impact Research, which honors researchers for their outstanding work and its impact on our world.

2010 — Trey Patterson
A Systems Approach to Grassland Management

Trey Patterson Dr. Trey Patterson received a bachelors and master's in animal science from Colorado State University; his doctorate degree in ruminant nutrition was from the University of Nebraska.  Trey served as an Extension Beef Specialist for South Dakota State University for five years where he led statewide extension and research programs in beef cattle nutrition and management.  Since 2005, Trey has been with Padlock Ranch Company based out of Ranchester, Wyoming.  He held the position of Chief Operations Officer until 2014, leading operations for the ranch and working with the management team to develop and implement strategies to improve ranch profitability and sustainability. Trey now holds the position of President and CEO.

2009 — Terry Riley
Restoring Great Plains Grassland Landscapes

Terry Riley Dr. Terry Riley has a bachelor’s degree in fish and wildlife biology from Kansas State University, a master’s degree in wildlife science from New Mexico State University, and a master’s and doctorate degrees in zoology from The Ohio State University. He is a certified wildlife biologist, outdoorsman, and amateur vintner. Dr. Riley has been associated in various capacities with the Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, North American Grouse Partnership, Wildlife Management Institute, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and U.S. Forest Service.

2008 — Dennis Ojima
Grasslands: Adapting to Global Change

Dennis Ojima Dr. Dennis Ojima is a Professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability and a Senior Research Scientist in the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory in the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University as well as co-leads the Department Of Interior North Central Climate Science Center.  His research areas include global change effects on ecosystems around the world. His research addresses climate and land use changes on ecosystems, carbon accounting methods for forest carbon sequestration, and adaptation and mitigation strategies to climate change. He has been recognized for his international contributions in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment receiving which received the 2005 Zayed International Prize for the Environment and the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Professor Ojima received his PhD from the Rangeland Ecosystem Science Department at Colorado State University in 1987.

2007 — Burke Teichert
Managing Rangelands with Cattle and Wildlife for Ecological Sustainability and Economic Return

Burke Teichert Consultant, speaker, and contract manager throughout the United States, England, Australia, and New Zealand. Treichert has served as a university faculty member, cattle ranch manager, and cattle reproduction specialist. He promotes low-input strategy to grazing and analysis of overheads and gross margins.

2006 — Rod Heitschmidt
Some Observations on the Ecology, Economics, and Sustainability of Great Plains Rangeland Agriculture

Rod Heitschmidt Dr. Rodney Heitschmidt received a bachelor’s in botany from Fort Hays State University, a master’s and doctorate from Colorado State University in rangeland ecology. Dr. Heitschmidt worked with the Texas Agriculture Experiment Station focusing on grazing management and associated disciplines. Later, he took a position with the USDA Agriculture Research Service’s Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory, where his research was on developing effective grazing/drought management tactics and strategies. He retired from LARRL in 2001. Dr. Heitschmit has authored or co-authored many articles, book chapters, and abstracts, and made numerous presentations throughout his lifetime. In addition, he served in various capacities for several Society of Range Management sections. Professional awards include the Society for Range Management’s (SRM) Outstanding Achievement Award, Fellow Award, Renner Award, and the America/World Agriculture Award, to name a few.

2005 — David Briske
State and Transition Models and Ecological Thresholds: Bridging Theory and Application

David Briske David D. Briske is the T.M. O’Connor & Regents Professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science & Management at Texas A&M University. His scholarship and pedagogy have focused on the ecological function and management strategies of global rangelands throughout his career. His initial research addressed the physiology and demography of grasses, it then progressed to ecological resilience and climate change, and he is currently investigating rangelands as social-ecological systems. He served as the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Rangeland Ecology & Management from 2008 to 2015. He has edited and contributed to the volumes entitled Conservation Benefits of Rangeland Practices (USDA 2011) and Rangeland Systems: Processes, Management and Challenges (Springer 2017).

2004 — Thomas Boutton
Woody Plant Invasion of Grassland: Implications for the Carbon Cycle

Thomas Boutton Dr. Boutton is interested in the ecology of grassland and savanna ecosystems, particularly the impacts of land cover/land use changes on ecosystem processes (productivity, decomposition, biogeochemistry, hydrology). His work is oriented towards understanding the influence of woody plant invasion into grasslands and savannas on biogeochemistry and soil biology, as well as understanding ecosystem responses to global changes predicted for the future. The effects of climate, land use, and atmospheric composition on ecosystem structure and function are being investigated at time scales ranging from a few years (contemporary ecosystems) to thousands of years (paleo ecosystems), and spatial scales ranging from the soil aggregate to the landscape. Dr. Boutton serves as Director of the Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry Laboratory.

2003 — Richard Knight
For the Health of the Land: Honest Conversation about Land Use

Richard Knight Dr. Knight's recent study led him to believe cattle ranches may be the best hope for preserving habitat for many varieties of native species. The 2000-2001 study, Knight and colleagues compared data on songbird, mammalian carnivore, and plant commmunities on three types of land uses: private ranches, public protected areas, and exurban developments (ranchettes). Results showed that overall, the ranches had the healthiest grasslands, fewest number of weeds and least amount of bare ground.

2002 — Vivien Allen
Grassland Ecosystems: Pieces of the Puzzle

Vivien Allen Dr. Allen has responsibilities in teaching and research at Texas Tech University. Her areas of expertise are: design and development of forage/livestock systems with emphasis on maximizing use of forages and grazing to protect natural resources, improve nutrient management, profitability, energy efficiency, and animal performance, for long-term productivity; production, management, physiology, forage quality and antiquality factor of forages; and mineral nutrition in the soil/plant/animal system. Recent awards and honors include American Forage and Grassland Council Medallion Award, Barnie E. Rushing Jr. Distinguished Research Award, College of Agriculture and Natural Resource’s Research Award, Gamma Sigma Delta Outstanding Contributions to Agriculture Award, named a Faculty Associate in the TTU Economic Development Resource Center, Crop Science Society of America Fellow, and American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow.

2001 — Richard Hart
Bison and How They Shaped the Great Plains Rangelands

Richard Hart Dr. Richard Hart earned a master’s in agronomy from Iowa State and a doctorate in crop science from Oregon State. He worked as a Research Agronomist for the University of Georgia and at the Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, Georgia before transferring to the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) as a research agronomist. Eventually, Dr. Hart found his way to the newly-named High Plains Grasslands Research Station in Cheyenne, Wyoming we he served as a research agronomist and a rangeland scientist; he retired from the USDA ARS in 2001. Dr. Hart received the Chapline Research Award of the Society for Range Management, and was named Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy. His research accomplishments are documented in over 300 publications, which made him a sought after guest lecturer across the country.

2000 — David Barker
Biodiversity in New Zealand Grasslands

David Barker Dr. David Barker is a professor in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science at The Ohio State University. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degree at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand, and his doctorate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE. Dr. Barker’s research interests include production and performance of forages within grazing systems, biodiversity effects on forage production and performance, and drought effects on forage production and performance. His goal is to establish a nationally and internationally recognized research program in forage crop physiology and management, with the aim of improving cropping and utilization systems in an environmentally-sensitive and ecologically-compatible manner.

2000 — Scott Collins
Spatial and Temporal Dynamics in Tallgrass Prairie

Scott Collins Dr. Collins is the Distinguished Professor of Biology at the University of New Mexico. He received his doctorate from the University of Oklahoma, masters from Miami University, and bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University. Dr. Collins served as the program director at the National Science Foundation working with programs like Ecology, Long-term Ecological Research, Conservation and Restoration Biology, TECO, and Integrated Research Challenges. His research uses both long-term measurements and experimental manipulations to determine how disturbances, such as fire and drought, interact with global environmental change to affect arid land plant community composition structure. Dr. Collins has chaired many committees, served on various boards, and serves as Editor-in Chief of BioScience. A partial list of research interests includes plant community dynamics, gradient models and structure, effects of N deposition on herbaceous communities, and analysis of species distribution and abundance.

1999 — Steve Archer
Trees in Grasslands: Historical Changes and Ecological Consequence

Steve Archer Steve Archer is a Professor in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Arizona with appointments in the Global Change, Arid Lands Resource Sciences, and Remote Sensing & Spatial Analysis Graduate Interdisciplinary Programs. A Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Dr. Archer has a BA in Liberal Arts from Augustana College (Sioux Falls) and a MS and PhD in Rangeland Ecosystem Science from Colorado State University. Trained as a plant ecologist and ecosystem scientist, Dr. Archer has worked in Arctic Tundra, Great Plains and Southwestern Desert ecosystems. His research has centered around plant-animal interactions with a focus on grazing impacts on ecosystem structure and function. Population, transition probability and dynamic ecosystem simulation models are used in conjunction with remote sensing, dendrochronology and stable isotope chemistry to reconstruct vegetation history and to project the consequences of vegetation change on the sustainability of grazing systems, ecosystem biogeochemistry and land surface-atmosphere interactions. Field and laboratory experiments on the population biology of grasses and shrub growth forms are emphasized in the context of landscape ecology, succession and historical land–use practices. Research support includes major funding from the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the US Department of Agriculture.

1998 — William Laycock
True Grassland Restoration - Is it Possible?

William Laycock Dr. Laycock is a retired head of the Department of Rangeland Ecology and Watershed Management at the University of Wyoming.