Oklahoma Water Resources Center

The 2017 Student Water Conference Makes a Splash

by Emily E. Horton, Communications Student Worker; and Leslie Elmore, Water Center Program Coordinator

The Student Water Conference has been an annual event at Oklahoma State University (OSU) since 2012. The Oklahoma Water Resources Center continued this tradition in 2017, kicking off the Student Water Conference the evening of March 22nd—World Water Day—when students gathered for a welcome social and pizza with other participants.

Starting early Thursday morning, 85 participants, including 62 student presenters, from across the country gathered in OSU’s Student Union to share and learn about a broad range of water research projects, including irrigation practices, sensitive fisheries, ecosystem functions, and water conservation. Students were given the option to present their research in one of two poster sessions or orally.

Mixed throughout the student presentation sessions of the first day, invited speakers presented professional development and networking insight and advice.

Dr. Scott Stoodley, director of OSU’s Environmental Science Graduate Program, spoke on professional development in the water research field. Dr. Stoodley has been involved in water quality issues for over 20 years, working in private industry, academia, non-profit organizations, and state government. Through his presentation, Dr. Stoodley shared his knowledge of water research and some of the potential paths they might take to achieve their career goals.

Amy Gazaway, Oklahoma State University’s Career Development Coordinator, shared key points of networking such as the importance of a proper handshake, making introductions, and preparing for professional events.

The evening concluded with water trivia and barbecue for participants.

“I think everyone enjoyed the barbecue and getting to know each other a little,” said Abigail Parnell, student conference organizer. “It was a nice chance to get to know participants from the conference and relax a little bit.”

Friday morning began with a welcome from Dr. Tom Coon, vice president, dean and director of Division of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources at OSU, followed by a student oral presentation session, a student poster session, and invited speakers to share their specific knowledge and expertise with the students.

Dr. Robert Nairn, the Director of the Center for Restoration of Ecosystems and Watersheds at the University of Oklahoma, spoke on the role of natural infrastructure in addressing water quality and quantity issues through conservation of existing ecosystems or designing and building of ecologically engineered ecosystems.

Rob Singletary, General Counsel of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, spoke on the Historic Water Agreement, in which the State of Oklahoma, Choctaw Nation, Chickasaw Nation, and City of Oklahoma City worked together to find a compromise that addressed the needs of all parties.

Keeping with World Water Day’s “wastewater” theme, a panel of experts, including representatives from Chesapeake Energy, OK Corporation Commission, Garver Engineering, and Oklahoma State University form a “produced water panel.” Each panel member gave his/her unique perspective on the challenges presented by water produced through oil and gas development practices.

For the second year, we invited agency professionals to take part in a meet-n-greet with the student participants. The meet-n-greet allowed student participants to practice their newly honed networking skills with potential future employers within the water resources field.

Sixteen faculty and professionals volunteered to judge the student sessions over the two days. Upon completion of all presentations, individual scores were tallied and winners were chosen. The following top presenters were announced at the awards ceremony which capped off the conference. 

Oral Presenters:

  • 1st Place: Holly Enlow of Oklahoma State University
    “A Framework for Evaluating the Effectiveness of Streambank Stabilization Practices for Reach-Scale Sediment Reduction”
  • 2nd Place: Ashwin Kumar Yegya Raman of Oklahoma State University
    “Rapid Demulsification of Oil-in-Water and Water-in-Oil Emulsions Using Silica Nanoparticles”
  • 3rd Place: Manabendra Saharia of the University of Oklahoma
    “Impact of Rainfall Spatial Variability on Flash Flood Severity”

Poster Presenters:

  • 1st Place: Justin Scott of Oklahoma State University
    “Use of the Fish Primary Gill Epithelial Culturing System to Measure Acute Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) In-Vitro and Compare Effects In-Vivo”
  • 2nd Place: Brandon Holzbauer-Schweitzer of the University of Oklahom
    “Utilizing an Unnamed Arial System and a High Resolution Multi-Spectral Sensor to Evaluate Ecosystem Health and Predict Surface Water Quality”
  • 3rd Place: Saeed Beyki of Oklahoma State University
    “A New Piping System Design for Turfgrass Irrigation Using AutoCad”

“The Student Water Conference is a great opportunity to network with other water researchers in different fields,” said first place oral presentation winner, Holly Enlow. She explained the benefits of gaining others’ perspectives on the many aspects of water research. 

The Oklahoma Water Resources Center looks forward to hosting future Student Water Conferences allowing more students to gain this valuable presentation experience and networking opportunity.

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