James Murr, The Junction Eagle:
Texas Tech University’s Llano River Field Station in Junction has been selected for the “Education and Public Service Award” given by the Universities Council on Water Resources. The award recognizes “contributions to increased public awareness of water resources development, use, or management covering one or a combination of the natural, biological, and social sciences.” The Council is an association of universities and other organizations with executive offices located at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Dr. Tom Arsuffi is the Director of the Station. Upon being notified of the award, he said: “We are honored and pleased to be recognized for this national award, it reaffirms the Llano River Field Station is making a difference in many positive ways for Junction, Kimble County, the Hill Country, and beyond.” Arsuffi has been invited to an Awards Banquet in June in Nevada.
The Station, established in 2003, is the largest inland field station in Texas. It provides a laboratory and classroom environment for undergraduate and graduate students from universities, institutes, and public schools. Its natural resources oriented mission is centered on basic and applied research projects dealing with water, watersheds, invasive species, range management, ecological restoration, and environmental education in the Central Texas Hill Country.
The Station is engaged in a wide range of activities at the local, state, and national levels and the breadth and importance of its ongoing activities was a basis for the award. Some of these activities are highlighted below.
A key role of the Station is to provide the scientific and educational expertise, facilities, and resources that bring stakeholders together to address water, watershed, and environmental literacy concerns. The Station strongly advocates and facilitates research on the watersheds for the North, South, and Main Llano Rivers and their riparian habitats. Since 2005, over 450 undergraduate and graduate students and 64 faculty members have engaged in collaborative projects including needs assessments and planning, landowner resources workshops, natural history surveys, restoration work, and research on rangeland, water, and watersheds.
The Station is one of the key stakeholders in developing an Upper Llano River Watershed Protection Plan that will help protect and preserve the watershed and its irreplaceable springs. Station-led partnerships have received over $3.5 million in funding for programs, thereby benefiting the watershed and directly engaging more than 10,000 students and citizens. Local economic benefits have also flowed from this funding.
The Station is a sponsor of the Texas Water Symposium, a collaborative and innovative public education effort. It involves broadcasting four symposiums on public radio that bring together policymakers, scientists, water resources experts, and regional leaders to explore the challenges and complexities of managing water in Texas. The broadcasts reach tens of thousands of people.
The Station’s Outdoor School is recognized as a Texas Exemplar Program for K-12 urban students. The STEM-based curriculum incorporates hands-on, inquiry-based learning approaches aligned with a state-mandated curriculum that teaches science to K-12 students in an outdoor learning environment. (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.) The School has provided professional development and education in science and nature to over 60 Texas independent school districts, 15,000 students and parents, and hundreds of teachers.
The new Llano River Discovery Point Observatory and Trail at the Station integrates K-12 watershed education with research programs. These programs introduce families, schools, organizations, and land managers to activities involving local ecologies, watersheds, and land stewardship. The Station has partnered with the National Park Service, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and multiple public and private stakeholders to build this Trail to highlight the habitats and ecosystems of the Texas Hill Country.
The Station continually hosts regular training workshops for agency personnel and scientific and educational conferences. Annually these endeavors reach more than 5,000 agency staff, K-12 students, and other parties.
Texas Tech’s Llano River Field Station continues to play an increasingly important role in fostering diverse research and education in the sciences, as well as protecting the Hill Country’s invaluable natural resources. The Station also brings significant direct and indirect economic benefits to the community of Junction.