At a recent awards ceremony at Auburn University in Birmingham, Alabama, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation recognized Texas Tech University’s Llano River Field Station (the Station) and its activities as an “Exemplary Project” for outstanding accomplishments. The Director of the Station, Dr. Tom Arsuffi, was present to receive the award (see accompanying photo).
The mission of the Station, located at the Texas Tech Center in Junction, is focused on increasingly important basic and applied research projects involving water, watersheds, invasive species, range management, ecological restoration, and environmental education. The Station provides a unique laboratory and classroom environment for undergraduate and graduate students from universities, institutes, and public schools.
The “Exemplary Project” recognition is extended to colleges and universities that have redesigned their learning, discovery, and engagement missions to become even more involved with their communities. The Station was competing with entrants from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming, as well as American Samoa, Guam, Mexico, Micronesia, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
The award was based on many factors, including the Station’s “research and engagement in a spectrum of partnerships focused on recognizing, understanding, and finding solutions to regional problems related to watershed and range science, freshwater systems, and the environment, with national and international implications.”
Among other activities, the Station is focusing on the connection between groundwater and surface water – i.e., springs – that is a vital natural resource of the Edwards Plateau where the headwaters of seven major Texas river systems are formed. The Station’s research activities, which are a model collaborative community effort, concentrate on the Upper Llano River watershed and threats to this healthy watershed.
These threats include aquifer mining, population growth, invasive water sucking plants, land fragmentation, climate change, pollution, and harmful land management practices. The Upper Llano River Protection Plan and related materials can be found by going to the website www.llanoriver.org.
The “Exemplary Project” award recognized that engagement between Station researchers, students, staff, and community partners has resulted in enhanced natural resource science and conservation and best practices in watershed protection. Also flowing from this engagement is an exemplary Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum and nationally recognized education programs.
In commenting on the award, Dr. Arsuffi said he is very pleased to see community stakeholders, Texas Tech, and the Field Station being recognized for truly collaborative efforts to protect the precious natural resources of the Texas Hill Country and, in particular, the Upper Llano River Watershed. He emphasized this effort can do much to maintain a healthy watershed so critical to the community’s economy, environment, and heritage. Arsuffi and staff are also rightfully proud of the Station’s exemplary educational programs being made available to the youth of Texas.