DENVER — A California native living in Texas plans to put the 2020 Sheep Heritage Foundation Scholarship to use in Idaho. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Associate Jake Thorne was selected for the $3,000 scholarship, and will spend the money working toward a Ph.D. remotely through the University of Idaho.
“I’m just incredibly thankful for this scholarship,” Thorne said. “Cost is always a big concern when continuing your education, so this scholarship is much appreciated.”
Raised on a sheep operation in California, Thorne relocated to Texas to compete with Texas A&M’s livestock judging team in 2008. He earned a bachelors degree two years later and went right to work on his masters degree, which he finished in 2013.
“When I finished my masters, I thought I was done with school at that point,” said Thorne, who got married in 2015 and welcomed a daughter to the family in 2018. “I was definitely kind of tired of school and needed a break. But then I got involved here at San Angelo, and that sparked my interest. We have both research and extension here, and I was working on both sides. There are definitely some challenges and benefits of going to school while working and having a family. But my family is a source of motivation for me to work hard.”
Even before his masters degree was finished, Thorne accepted a position as a research associate and farm manager for Texas A&M AgriLife in San Angelo, Texas. He served in that role for six years before moving to the extension side of the operation in January 2019. He continues to serve in that role while pursuing his doctorate.
As for working with the University of Idaho, Thorne said he was excited about the university’s Flock54 Program and contacted Dr. Brenda Murdoch at Idaho about joining her team.
“I believe that investing in Jake’s education would be a great benefit to the American sheep industry as he has a unique understanding of both commercial production and scientific research,” Dr. Murdoch wrote in Thorne’s recommendation letter. “His training in molecular genetics throughout his Ph.D. program has provided him with the ability to offer perspective as both a producer and an academic, and I believe Jake will be able to use these tools to be a leader amongst his industry peers into the future.
“Jake joined my program in the spring of 2019 and has been involved in a number of our research projects. He has been active in trialing the Flock54 genomic marker panel, which I coordinated the development of, as it has become available to the sheep industry. Through grant-funded projects he has coordinated in Texas, Jake led the efforts to genotype over 2,000 sheep with Flock54 and produce parentage reports for the producers from these datasets.”
Working remotely hasn’t been a problem so far. And this year has certainly proven to the masses that video conferencing can go a long way to bring people together in a work environment.
“There are some issues that can come up when you’re 1,500 miles away from your fellow lab mates, but it hasn’t been a problem,” Jake said. “I also try to get to the campus at least once a semester.”
Thorne was one of several scholarship candidates in 2020 who has life-long ties to the American sheep industry.
“I’m a sheep guy and I’m passionate about this industry,” he said. “I think there are some industry problems that we can continue working on. There are so many production issues that I know we can solve with a little time and hard work. Parasites and reproduction are huge issues in the sheep industry here in Texas. I want to be a part of the leadership, a part of that core group in the industry that is working to solve these problems.”
ASI is an equal opportunity employer. It is the national trade organization supported by 45 state sheep associations, benefiting the interests of more than 100,000 sheep producers.
–American Sheep Industry Association
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