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Tracking Dr. Ballard

by Brett Nelius


In order for the Department of Natural Resources Management at Texas Tech University to succeed many agree they need ground breaking, extraordinary research... prepare to meet the man who helps put this department on the map.

Warren Ballard Phd. is one of very few professors to have the title of a Horn professor which is defined by Tech as the highest honor the university may bestow on members of its faculty, this honor is granted to professors in recognition of national or international distinction for outstanding teaching, research, or other creative achievement.

Ballard has been with Tech for 12 years. He has conducted research in states such as: Alaska, Arizona, Kansas and Texas, to name a few, as well as in Canada; and has now settled in Lubbock.

Ballard spent 25 years in Alaska doing phenomenal research on predator and prey relationships involving moose, caribou and other species. How he ended up teaching at Tech is a stroke of luck for the university.

Dr. Philip Gipson, Chairman of the Natural Resources Management Department, at Tech, has known Ballard for close to 35 years. They initially met and became friends as they worked in Alaska. Gipson and Ballard’s friendship has remained and given them the opportunity to work together as well as help Tech shine.

Gipson recalled Ballard applying to work at Tech. “I remember him (Ballard) calling me, and I was at Kansas State at the time, and he said “Phil, I’ve got a chance to go over to Texas Tech and interview for a nice job” and I told him now Warren, don’t get your hopes up but he called me back later and was yelling “I got that job!” he was thrilled, and so was I.”

So Ballard’s journey with Tech began.

“Well I feel like a big part of my job is to get grants.” Ballard explains “We can’t have any students without any grants.”
And grants he found. Since beginning his work at Tech, Ballard has been an integral part of bringing in around $10,000,000 in grants to the department. Even with the pressure of bringing in money to support the department, Ballard still makes it a point to help the students as much as possible. “I think we’re known the world over for being a hands-on place. Once I train students and help them out, they are on their own doing their own research with our support of course.”

The students that work with Ballard are a credit to his experience and expertise. With research being conducted all over the United States a great deal of the students working towards their masters’ degree started out as undergraduates under Ballard as well. “I think I’ve helped some students press on to continue their education, at least according to my masters’ students.” Ballard laughs about this, but his work goes even further.

“We’re trying to continue to update our programs and do state-of-the-art work, and I think we are, but that’s always a goal.” Ballard says “In fact we just got back from Texas chapter of the Wildlife Society meeting and we’re being recognized for our ground-breaking work and we have been for a while now.”

Upon first inspection of Ballard’s office it seems fairly Normal for a professor with so many accomplishments. Along with multiple awards, pictures and mounted animals on the walls, one award stands out more than most.

Hanging on the horn of a ram is a bright purple and blue feathered award collected by Ballard. This award reads “Outstanding Mouse Biologist”… When asked about this, Ballard explains that the university once awarded him for his outstanding work with moose in Alaska but, they made a typo that led to him receiving the “mouse biologist award”. To remember this humorous mishap some of Ballard’s students made him a serperate award to remind him of his funny accomplishment.

His work and accomplishments have not come over night. Ballard has had to work very hard and ensure the quality of the research coming out of the university in order to keep building on an already strong program. Gipson went as far as saying that his leadership and research is the kind of work that will help Tech achieve the goal of reaching the status of a tier one university.

All of this work, accompanied with over 200 published research articles has really put Tech’s natural resources department on the map. “Without Dr. Ballard,” Gipson says “we would never have received this burst of professionalism or the recognition that we get that very few other universities do get.”

“More than that,” Gipson explains “Ballard is a wonderful person. He has helped so many of us and he is the reason that I’m here today in this position. He really is a great friend to me and to many students, he truly is a great asset to Texas Tech.”
So whether you want to know detailed accounts of predator and prey relations across the country or the effects of wind farms on the nearly endangered prairie chickens, you can count on Ballard leading students and research that will prove beneficial for years to come.