Conservation Matters July 2014

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

  • Meet a water scientist: Ralph Wurbs
    Meet a water scientist: Ralph Wurbs

    When you hear the word “scientist” most likely the image that comes to mind is of someone in a lab coat with test tubes and beakers. While this is true of some scientists, there are many others who do not fit that image. This is especially true of natural resource scientists. To showcase the diversity within this community of researchers, Conservation Matters is beginning a series called “Meet a Scientist.” In each issue we will introduce a scientist working with water, wildlife or other natural resources. We hope that this series provides insight into the contributions that these people make to their respective fields.

    Dr. Ralph Wurbs, Arthur McFarland professor in the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering, has been a water resource engineer since he graduated from Texas A&M University in 1971. Wurbs’ interest in water resource engineering is one that evolved and grew as he became more involved in the field. After graduating, Wurbs joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a civil engineer, planning and designing various water resource projects. Since 1980, Wurbs has worked as a professor at Texas A&M, teaching and conducting research in water resource engineering. He also served as Associate Director for Engineering at Texas Water Resources Institute from 2007 to 2012.

  • Buck Creek Watershed Protection Plan accepted by EPA
    Buck Creek Watershed Protection Plan accepted by EPA

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has accepted the Buck Creek Watershed Protection Plan as meeting the agency’s guidelines for watershed-based plans and effectively outlining a strategy to reduce nonpoint source pollution in the watershed, according to a Texas Water Resources Institute official.

    “This acceptance comes after years of collaboration between local watershed landowners and stakeholders, local soil and water conservation districts, and regional and state agency personnel,” said Lucas Gregory, a Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) project specialist in College Station.

  • Texas A&M researcher measures water security in the Rio Grande Valley
    Texas A&M researcher measures water security in the Rio Grande Valley

    A Texas A&M researcher has found that segments of the population, especially along the Texas-Mexican border, exist in a “no-win waterscape,” with no easy access to clean water, no ability to pay for it and no immediate solution.

    Dr. Wendy Jepson, an associate professor in the College of Geosciences, said the issue is a matter of water security, defined as the ability for individuals to access acceptable, affordable and adequate drinking water for a healthy life.

  • New partnership effort spurs voluntary conservation for lesser prairie-chicken and agriculture
    New partnership effort spurs voluntary conservation for lesser prairie-chicken and agriculture

    Producers partnering with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), working through the local soil and water conservation districts, have found a workable and economically viable solution that will continue to enhance and help protect the lesser prairie-chicken habitat.

    The new voluntary cooperative conservation effort is making history in Texas. Rancher Clay Cooper in Lipscomb County has signed the first conservation plan in the state through NRCS’ Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) partnership, an agreement with the Department of Interior United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

  • New League City park demonstrates ways to be 'WaterSmart'
    New League City park demonstrates ways to be 'WaterSmart'

    With help from the Texas Sea Grant Program at Texas A&M University, the city of League City has transformed a public park into a showcase for the principles of WaterSmart landscapes: water conservation, water quality and habitat for wildlife. 

    Texas Sea Grant’s Texas Coastal Watershed Program (TCWP), a partnership between Texas Sea Grant and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Program, designed the new amenities at Ghirardi WaterSmart Park. Funded by the city’s Park Dedication Fund and a grant from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the park was completed in February and formally opened in March. The Galveston Bay Estuary Program was also a partner for the project. 

  • Texas A&M researchers devise unprecedented test to detect water contamination
    Texas A&M researchers devise unprecedented test to detect water contamination

    Imagine being able to test water for the tiniest levels of waste contamination, even at home. A team of researchers at Texas A&M University, led by Vladislav Yakovlev, professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, has developed a method to detect a previously undetectable level of contamination in water associated with human and animal fecal matter. The technology detects “urobilin,” a byproduct excreted in the urine and feces of many mammals at levels that are thousandths and even millionths of times smaller than those found by conventional methods. Urobilin can be made to glow when mixed with zinc ions, forming a phosphorescent compound. A water sample is placed inside a cylinder and a laser light is beamed inside through a small hole causing any urobilin present in the sample to glow. Yakovlev says the technology has exciting potential uses, including analysis of drinking water supplies, particularly in developing nations and following natural disasters. He even foresees an at-home testing method in which a store-bought LED light can be used to detect contamination.

  • AgriLife Research study identifies contributing factors to groundwater table declines
    AgriLife Research study identifies contributing factors to groundwater table declines

    It’s no secret groundwater levels have declined across the state over the past eight decades, and that the primary reason was the onset of irrigation in agriculture and population growth. But a recent Texas A&M AgriLife Research study has identified other factors having an impact.                     

    The groundwater declines have been most severe in the past four decades, but the news isn’t all bad, according to Dr. Srinivasulu Ale, AgriLife Research geospatial hydrology assistant professor in Vernon.

  • Water Resources Competitive Grants Program request for proposals

    The Institute for Water Resources (IWR), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in cooperation with the National Institutes for Water Resources (NIWR) has requested proposals for grants to support applied investigations for specific areas related to water resources issues in the United States.

    Grant proposals may request up to $200,000 in federal funds, but proposals for lesser amounts are encouraged. Proposals must be submitted to the IWR by a NIWR-designated institute or center, which for Texas researchers, is the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI). The government's obligation under this program is contingent upon the availability of funds.

  • TSSWCB requests proposals for FY2015 Clean Water Act Section 319(h) Nonpoint Source Grant Program

    The Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) is requesting proposals for watershed assessment, planning, implementation, demonstration and education projects seeking funding under the FY2015 Clean Water Act §319(h) Nonpoint Source Grant Program. Proposed projects should focus on agricultural and/or silvicultural nonpoint source pollution prevention and abatement activities within the boundaries of impaired or threatened watersheds.

    Up to $1 million of TSSWCB’s FY2015 Clean Water Act grant will be eligible for this request for proposals. A competitive proposal review process will be used so that the most appropriate and effective projects are selected for funding.

  • New IRNR and TWRI projects

    Support of REPI Program (FY2015) in Sustaining Military Readiness

    Funded by: DOD – Corps of Engineers through the Gulf Coast CESU

    Partners: Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

     

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