Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

A Living Laboratory: Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Partners with Nature Conservancy for Class Studies, Research

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

A Living Laboratory: Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Partners with Nature Conservancy for Class Studies, Research

Article excerpt

Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College entered a partnership Wednesday with The Nature Conservancy that opens the Oklahoma Tallgrass Prairie Preserve and other protected lands for class studies and research.

"It really offers us a chance to collaboratively train the conservationists of tomorrow," said Mike Fuhr, state director of the TNC Oklahoma Chapter. "It really seems like fewer and fewer people are getting outdoors. Young people are getting out and experiencing conservation (under this program). It's this kind of experience that can really inspire someone to become a conservationist."

In a Wednesday afternoon press conference at the Tulsa Press Club, NEO President Jeff Hale also announced a program with the Peoria Tribe to create a wetlands test area for the Tar Creek Superfund site. The tribe will fund the pond construction and water testing effort through a $371,333 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In its memorandum with The Nature Conservancy's Oklahoma Chapter, the Miami, Okla., college may have landed the first higher education partnership in the history of that preservation organization.

"This is the first time we've ever done anything like this," said Dudley Hyde, chairman of the Oklahoma Chapter's board of trustees and an attorney with McAfee and Taft. "This could be a prototype for other states, other universities."

Hale said a group of NEO faculty members is working on curriculum plans for investigating the tallgrass preserve, 39,000 acres in Osage County harboring more than 750 plant types, 2,500 free- roaming bison and hundreds of other species. While course additions will start with the college's science and agriculture departments, Vice President for Academic Affairs Tim Faltyn said all NEO students will have opportunities to participate in field trips, research projects and other Nature Conservancy resources.

"This will expose students to the largest living laboratory in the state of Oklahoma," said Faltyn. "We're the first college to do that."

Faltyn said the partnership would immediately boost conservation programs in the college's forestry and environmental science departments. …

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