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CREW Celebrates 10 Years of Environmental Research with GRDA

CREW Celebrates 10 Years of Environmental Research with GRDA

OU student working on CREW project

The Center for Restoration of Ecosystems and Watersheds (CREW) at the University of Oklahoma recently marked its 10-year anniversary of a successful collaboration with the Grand River Dam Authority – a partnership aimed at finding sustainable solutions to environmental challenges in northeastern Oklahoma and beyond.

Led by Dr. Robert W. Nairn, David L. Boren Professor and Vierson Presidential Professor in the OU School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, CREW conducts water quality research focusing on natural infrastructure, either through conservation of natural ecosystems or creation and restoration of human-made ecosystems.

The GRDA is a non-appropriated state agency that serves as a public power provider and natural resources steward. 

CREW students and faculty provide the GRDA with objective research results, helping to drive the agency’s scientifically valid management decision-making.

“The collaboration with the GRDA has been a real game-changer for my students and me – the sustained long-term relationship allows us to pursue sustainable solutions for complex environmental challenges,” Nairn said.

CREW recently entered its second 10-year agreement with the GRDA, extending the learning pact to 2029.

The agreement will continue to provide stipend support for graduate research assistants conducting environmental research in the more than 10,000-square-mile, four-state Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees watershed. The scope of the project has allowed OU students to work not only with the GRDA, but on collaborative projects with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Environmental Quality, other state and federal agencies, and a number of tribal partners, principally the Quapaw Nation of Oklahoma. 

“Much of the research has focused on remediation and restoration of the Tar Creek Superfund Site (part of the Tri-State Lead-Zinc Mining District), but our water quality research has expanded to the entire watershed, including multiple reservoirs, tributary streams and associated areas,” Nairn said.

Over the past 10 years, 15 OU master’s and doctoral students completed degrees on this GRDA project. During that same time frame, five senior capstone classes of more than 60 students were involved with specific aspects of the project. The agreement with GRDA also has provided support for laboratory space and supplies, watercraft access, on-site housing and more. 

Since its inception in 2004, CREW’s total research funding, including external and internal multi-investigator awards and real cost-share, is over $24.5 million. Through CREW’s numerous collaborative partnerships, faculty and students have produced more than 140 refereed publications, and the center has graduated over 50 master’s and doctoral students.


By Matt Price

CREW student working in the field
CREW student working in the field

Article Published: Wednesday, February 26, 2020