OSU partnership with OG&E provides real-world experience to graduate students
Wednesday, January 5, 2022
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Students in the Oklahoma State University Environmental Science Graduate program partner with local, state and federal agencies to address water quality issues throughout the state and region.
One of those strategic partners is OG&E, which recently donated a work truck to the university.
The truck will allow the research team to send multiple crews out into the field and expand their capacity to conduct field work throughout the state and region, said Andy Dzialowski, associate professor in the Department of Integrative Biology.
“A lot of what we do is in the field, responding to environmental issues and collecting data that's time sensitive so that we can analyze it, make predictions about the condition, and hopefully manage it or make recommendations for management,” Dzialowski said.
One of the current projects the team is focused on is eradicating the invasive aquatic plant yellow floating heart at Lake Carl Blackwell, just west of Stillwater.
"This truck allows our students to get out, get around the lake and identify areas to assess treatment in the lake,” Dzialowski said. “Another project we're working on is helping Stillwater develop a stream water quality monitoring program, and the truck allows us to sample sites around the city.”
The truck is part of an ongoing partnership between OSU and OG&E.
“OG&E is proud to partner with OSU’s Environmental Science Graduate Program as a part of our commitment to research and education,” said Usha Turner, OG&E director of Environmental, Federal and Regional Affairs. “This donation is part of our ongoing partnership in the ecological research that these students are leading in our communities, and we hope it will further enable and support them in their studies.”
In the past, the researchers have worked with OG&E to study zebra mussels in Sooner Lake — about 30 miles north of Stillwater. Zebra mussels are an invasive species that have caused significant ecology and economic damage to freshwater ecosystems in the U.S.
Farther away from Stillwater, the researchers have an ongoing project in northeast Oklahoma at the Grand Lake Watershed.
“In our work in the Grand Lake Watershed we're looking at streams and stream quality,” Dzialowski said. “So this truck will help us get out to our stream sites and collect data.”
Looking beyond the current projects though, this truck and the partnership with OG&E will be a continued benefit to researchers and students alike.
“It will help students get out and collect data in the field, gain valuable experience collecting water quality data and they will help address environmental issues in the state,” Dzialowski said.
Private companies like OG&E partnering with OSU helps researchers in many ways — from donations like this truck, to providing funding for students and research projects and even going on to hire many students after graduation, these types of partnerships continue to promote OSU research, Dzialowski said.
This research stretches beyond just those partnerships.
“If we learn about one system, we can also use that knowledge to make predictions about other systems,” Dzialowski said. “And hopefully, the knowledge that we gain isn't specific to one place, or reservoir, or industry.”
For Dzialowski that means making sure their research is far-reaching.
“We want our students to publish their research, so it's not lost and it can help people in similar situations, maybe in different systems,” Dzialowski said. “Funding is really important to support students who ultimately are working in state environmental agencies or in companies that are in an industry full of these issues.”
“So if they have real-world experience, I think it helps them be successful scientists or citizens or whatever they do after they graduate.”