Mark R. Ryan, a leading wildlife biologist and an expert in conservation and natural resources, has been named the Executive Director of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ryan, who currently serves as director of the School of Natural Resources at the University of Missouri, will join Illinois on Oct. 1, 2015, pending the approval of the Board of Trustees.
“Dr. Ryan is a highly regarded researcher with a proven track record working in a large, complex organization,” said Peter Schiffer, the vice chancellor for research at the U of I. “I am confident that he will be a strong leader who will develop a strategic vision that builds on the Institute’s past work and fosters new, collaborative research and relationships.”
Ryan has deep administrative, research, teaching and public outreach experience, and has received a number of awards for his work, including the USDA’s National Award for Excellence in Teaching. A Fellow of the Wildlife Society, he has been a member of the faculty at Missouri since 1984. He completed undergraduate work at the University of Minnesota, and earned a master’s degree in Wildlife Biology and a Ph.D. in Animal Ecology from Iowa State University.
“The surveys that comprise PRI have a rich history of excellence in conducting and applying science to serve the people of Illinois,” Ryan said. “I am excited to join with the extraordinary professionals of the Institute in continuing, expanding, and enhancing that work.”
Ryan will replace Brian Anderson, who served as interim executive director after the departure of founding executive director William Shilts.
“We are grateful to Brian for his capable stewardship of the Institute during the past year, and to Bill for his leadership in bringing the Institute into the University and in setting it on such a solid foundation,” Schiffer said.
The Prairie Research Institute was established in 2008 at the University of Illinois and is the home of the state scientific surveys: Illinois State Archaeological Survey, Illinois State Geological Survey, Illinois Natural History Survey, Illinois State Water Survey, and Illinois Sustainable Technology Center. With more than 1,000 scientists and staff working at 72 locations (39 in the Champaign-Urbana area, 33 throughout the rest of Illinois) the Institute is a critical applied research arm of the state, providing anticipatory research, long-term data collection, and a capacity for rapid deployment and response to sudden or unexpected circumstances. For over 160 years the surveys have applied cutting-edge science and expertise to keep Illinois’ economy, environment, and people prosperous and secure.
The Institute’s sponsored expenditures in FY15 exceeded $54 million, for work on a number of prominent projects: a multi-million dollar Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to study carbon dioxide storage; major archeological work for the construction of the new Mississippi River Bridge at St. Louis; water supply planning in several regions of Illinois including the Northeast; development of technologies and service programs to green industry; updating floodplain mapping for the state of Illinois; and understanding and managing Asian Carp and other invasive species.
As executive director, Ryan will provide leadership, direction and overall administration for the surveys, promoting excellence in research and ensuring that the Institute fulfills its legislative responsibilities to provide objective and relevant scientific advice to Illinois state government, municipalities, and businesses.
“The Institute's role of ‘service through science’ is vital to the state's economy and the quality of life of its citizens, and I am honored to have the opportunity to lead such an important part of the University's mission,” Ryan said.