Missouri State University

Environment and Water Resources

Concept:

This emphasis area encompasses the study of ecosystems, human impacts on the environment, and sustainable resource management. The Ozarks region is biogeographically and geologically distinctive and possesses relatively intact but sensitive physical environment and biological communities. Aquatic and terrestrial natural resources are major factors in the quality of life and the regional economy. Missouri State has a superior record of research and funding in several areas of environmental science, and is well-positioned to achieve regional and national recognition.

Funding:

Examples of major trends and opportunities in extramural funding

This area has a robust and sustained record of external grant support, scholarly publication, and graduate education among an interdisciplinary group of faculty members. Over the past 3 years, grant activity has averaged 18 awards and $403,000 annually. Additional support includes Congressional appropriations of $300,000 for the Bull Shoals Field Station and $500,000 for the Ozarks Environmental and Water Resources Institute for fiscal year 2005, with another $500,000 earmarked for 2006. Research grants and contracts have been mainly for applied research, sponsored by government resource agencies including federal (National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) and state agencies (Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks) as well as the National Science Foundation. Funding is facilitated by membership in the Upper and Middle Mississippi Valley Cooperative Ecosystems Study Unit, providing favored status with Department of Interior agencies. Funded activities include environmental assessment and monitoring, geospatial analysis, endangered species research and restoration, and environmental education. Given the existing research base, the injection of federal appropriations, and future support by the University for faculty and facilities, Missouri State could compete for long-term environmental monitoring projects and large basic research grants and become a nationally recognized leader in environmental research.

Growth:

Examples of areas of knowledge you anticipate will experience the most dramatic growth

Environmental problems and demand for related research will inevitably escalate due to human population growth, resource consumption, and related impacts. Particular problems include pollution from urban, industrial and agricultural sources and historical lead-zinc mining, nutrient enrichment of surface water from human population and confined animal feed operations, particularly swine and poultry, agricultural and forestry pest management, harmful algal blooms in lakes and rivers, and invasive species of non-native plants and animals. Affected interests include recreational and tourist industries, public health, agriculture, forestry, sport fisheries, and government agencies complying with the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.

Unique Resources:

Examples of unique existing resources as well as current needs in Missouri, the Ozarks, and/or Springfield regarding economic development, technological advances, cultural enrichment, physical well-being, and/or social prosperity

The Ozarks environment is a major regional attraction and an important factor in quality of life. Regional advantages include relatively low population density, large areas of National Forest, National Scenic Riverways, nationally and globally significant biota and geology, scenic and relatively pristine rivers, and man-made lakes, providing outdoor recreational opportunities in proximity to major population centers. The karst geology of the Ozarks creates particular problems and needs for expertise with regard to sustainable development. Existing research centers and the Bull Shoals Field Station provide a framework for environmental research and education. There is strong regional interest among organizations and businesses in environment & water quality issues. Organizations include James River Basin Partnership, Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, Upper White River Basin Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society, Discovery Center, and the Ozark Underground Laboratory. Business interests include Bass Pro, Silver Dollar City, Fantastic Caverns, real estate, and other businesses that depend on environment, tourism, and outdoor recreation.

Collaborations:

Examples of new collaborations in research and/or learning as well as linkages to the University's existing and emerging research strengths

The University has strong ties to state and federal resource agencies and is increasingly respected as a source of expertise in environmental science. A National Park Service research unit was recently established at Missouri State, with responsibility for biological and environmental assessment and monitoring on federal lands. Many opportunities exist for collaboration among departments, facilitated by existing interdisciplinary units. The Bull Shoals Field Station is a partner in the new NSF-sponsored environmental monitoring projects NEON (National Ecological Observatory Network) and Earthscope, which could potentially lead to partnership in large monitoring grants.

Strengths:

Examples of building on existing strengths

There is a strong record of scholarly publication, education, and sustained and increasing grant support from multiple sources.  Faculty in several departments have established research programs in relevant subject areas, including fluvial geomorphology, cartography and remote sensing, environmental geochemistry, water quality and watershed assessments, biotic indices, conservation biology, population ecology, physiological ecology, plant allelopathy, invasive species biology, and environmental education. Existing interdisciplinary units include Ozarks Environmental and Water Resources Institute, the Center for Resource Planning and Management, and the Bull Shoals Field Station. The geographic area is attractive to faculty with environmental interests, and the physical location of the University is conducive to field studies in natural areas.

Mission Fit:

Examples of compatibility with the University's statewide mission in public affairs

Environment is the most comprehensive concept of shared resources and responsibilities. Effective and sustainable resource management requires that private and public interests be balanced for the benefit of society as a whole. A research emphasis on environment is implicit in the University mission and in the theme of Science and the Environment. Research in this area benefits the public on multiple levels. Education in this area prepares students to deal with critical challenges that must be met by scientists, policy makers, and voters.

Education Fit:

Examples of contributions to superior undergraduate, graduate, and professional education

Understanding of the Natural World is a General Education goal of the University. There is a history of environmental outreach and education programs at Missouri State and new initiatives are actively being pursued by faculty. Many Missouri State students have strong interests in the natural world and in conservation and resource management. Research in this area has an excellent record of undergraduate and graduate student involvement. Students who participate in research funded by resource agencies are well-positioned for eventual employment by those agencies. Professional opportunities for BS and MS students in the public and private sectors are good to excellent, particularly in rapidly advancing technical areas such as remote sensing and environmental remediation.

 

Sustainability:

Environmental problems and therefore demand for environmental science will increase with human population. Research in this area has been increasingly active and well funded at Missouri State, despite significant handicaps. There is need to encourage graduate programs by sponsoring fee waivers and by increasing graduate student stipends. Facilities and salaries must be upgraded to attract quality faculty and students. Net loss of faculty lines from the natural sciences must be reversed. Key faculty lines recently lost and not yet replaced include aquatic entomology and phycology, both of which support bioassessment of water quality in streams and lakes. Other areas for addition of faculty lines might include toxicology, urban ecology, environmental management/planning, and surface water hydrology/modeling.