Western launches institute to study watershed issues
9/24/2007 -

Photo of Jerry Miller, the Whitmire Distinguished Professor of Environmental Sciences, and student Jessica Jaynes taking measurements at the Tuckaseigee River.
Jerry Miller, the Whitmire Distinguished Professor of Environmental Science, helps student Jessica Jaynes take measurements at the Tuckaseigee River.

Western Carolina University is home to a new institute that will bring together scientists, policymakers, economic development experts, natural resource managers and other interested parties in an effort to preserve regional water resources while trying to ensure economic prosperity.

Approval of the creation of the Institute for Watershed Research and Management came Aug. 31 as part of the quarterly meeting of the WCU board of trustees.

“This institute has arisen out of the need for better understanding of watershed issues, the importance of having a full range of expertise to deal with those issues, the realization that we have many of those experts already on our campus, and the desire to bring those experts together in a cooperative spirit,” said Charles Worley, secretary of the WCU board.

The IWRM will examine the management of water resources on an overall watershed basis, rather than on political boundaries that are set without regard to geology, climate or plant and animal life, said Worley. The institute is designed to encourage integrated scientific research from a variety of disciplines, and to help elected officials and the public use that scientific information to make wise decisions regarding watershed management, he said.

Formation of the institution is especially timely in the face of the skyrocketing pace of development in Western North Carolina and beyond, said Jerry Miller, the Whitmire Distinguished Professor of Environmental Science at WCU, who will oversee the institute.

“Many parts of the nation, and particularly the mountain region of North Carolina, are experiencing unprecedented growth. As development continues, there clearly is a need to manage our aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in such a way as to balance economic prosperity with environmental quality,” said Miller. “The new Institute for Watershed Research and Management was created to promote the development of sustainable watershed management practices in Western North Carolina, the state and the nation.”

The institute will encourage collaborative research by faculty, students and staff from a variety of programs, including geosciences and natural resources management, environmental health, biology, chemistry and physics, anthropology and sociology, construction management, Cherokee studies, computer sciences, and political science and public affairs.

The institute’s activities also will be aligned closely with Western’s Quality Enhancement Plan. A requirement for institutional reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Western’s QEP is designed to help students connect their educational experiences to the region through service learning projects and internships that help solve regional problems.

“We expect to establish many avenues for undergraduate and graduate students to obtain hands-on, real-life experiences related to watershed science; to help identify funding to support new and ongoing research related to watershed rehabilitation, management and policy; and to work with local, state and federal agencies to promote the rapid transfer of sound management solutions and policies into everyday practice,” Miller said.

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Last modified: Monday, Sept. 24, 2007


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