IN THE 1960S,
PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY recognized that people had the capacity
either to take care of the earth or to destroy it.
And he warned
that with that capacity comes power — the power of each generation
to become the best in the history
of the world, or the last.
members in the UNT Institute of Applied Sciences work to harness
that power to ensure to enjoy.
It’s a mission
that started more than 50 years ago. Through the water research
of J.K.G. Silvey and other biology faculty members, UNT began to
build a legacy in environmental science.
university is a recognized leader in the field, especially in water
and aquatic life studies, which are at the center of the environmental
research UNT conducts. But the institute takes a holistic view of
its environmental discipline.
we drink, the air we breathe and the land we live on are all interdependent,”
says Ken Dickson, the institute’s director.
professors Sam Atkinson and Tom Waller detected high concentrations
of atrazine (a restricted-use pesticide that may promote some forms
of cancer) in the streams that feed Lake Lewisville near Denton,
they went to work. The researchers began to study the surrounding
area, or watershed, as well as to monitor the life forms that live
in the water.
of atrazine we found in the feeder streams were alarmingly high,”
we’ve never found a higher-than-acceptable level in Lake Lewisville.
So we still have time to help keep the area’s drinking water resource
from being dangerously polluted by this chemical.”
To do that,
the researchers had to determine where the chemical was coming from.
remote sensing — satellite picturing of the earth — Atkinson and
UNT students developed a model of Lake Lewisville’s watershed.
studied the slope of farmland where atrazine might be used, and
they analyzed the soil type to determine where the chemical would
most likely be present in the highest concentrations.
areas of pollution identified, the next step is to eradicate the
applied research to learn what we need to know to fix a problem
or stop one from happening,” says Waller. “Either way, the research
always leads to the need for public education.”
case of atrazine, the research will allow Waller and Atkinson to
educate the community about the problem and what’s causing it. Then
they will have to influence the way the pesticide is being used.
to do that is to convince the manufacturers and the Environmental
Protection Agency to add use-specific restrictions, based on proximity
to creeks, rivers and lakes, to the pesticide’s label.
the EPA’s label standards and working with chemical manufacturers
through preventative ecotoxicology studies is central to UNT’s environmental
research is conducted in a laboratory setting using environmental
chemistry and biology to determine the effect of chemicals when
they are introduced into an ecosystem.
are done to ensure the chemicals are as safe as possible,” says
biologist Jim Kennedy.
this work on its 40-acre Water Research Field Station, located about
five miles from campus. Using more than 80 different “ponds” and
“lakes,” faculty members and their students simulate entire aquatic
ecosystems to study what happens when a chemical gets into water.
examines both what happens to the chemical — how it breaks down
and how it spreads — and what happens to the life in the ecosystem.
at a time is studied for about six months to determine its behavior.
UNT researchers are studying pyrethroids, a new generation of agricultural
pesticides known to be fatal to low-life water creatures.
are very toxic, but they have a very short life span, so they should
have virtually no effect on humans,” says biologist Tom LaPoint.
“However, if they are killing off the lowlife water bugs and plankton,
that disrupts the food chain. The research will tell us how people
can use the chemical and not disrupt the ecosystem.”
work is conducted at UNT’s new experimental stream system at the
city of Denton’s sewage treatment plant.
will be used to study the effect of multiple chemicals on aquatic
life. The information will help determine which chemicals, alone
and together, are of concern. In addition, the streams will allow
the researchers to gauge the effectiveness of the water treatment
and land studies will help determine what can be done to protect
life today and 'in the near future.
should be seen in our lifetime.
some of UNT’s environmental research looks far to the future.
a computer scientist and biophysicist, has developed a computer
model that could save the South American rain forests and other
from the National Science Foundation, he has produced preservation
models for forests in Oregon, is working on sites in Venezuela and
plans to begin work soon in Puerto Rico.
models, which incorporate projected climate and population changes,
show the impact of those changes on the forest ecosystems 500 years
from now. The results can help determine ways to use the forests
and still protect their long-term life.
modeling can also be applied to other environments, such as lakes
and farmland. In fact, researchers are using models in the atrazine
study to determine the effects of different rates of pollution.
the researchers conduct is often multidisciplinary, calling on expertise
from several research areas.
Ecoplex — Denton, Dallas and Fort Worth’s part in a national initiative
called EMPACT (Environmental Monitoring for Public Access and Tracking)
— combines all of the institute’s research disciplines and tools.
the EPA, the project is designed to monitor, record and anticipate
daily environmental conditions for specific communities.
is gathered and posted in real-time on the Internet so that people
can access data about the environmental conditions to which they
site, at www.ecoplex.unt.edu,
provides details about the day’s ozone levels, heat index and conditions
on the area lakes. The site also archives past levels and predicts
is to get the public involved in the environment on a daily basis,
people say they know about the environment when they do their part
to recycle,” he says, “but in order to be involved with and aware
of the environment, people have to know the physical world that
surrounds them every day.”
EMPACT, the researchers hope to educate the public so that this
generation, and each of those to come, can strive to be the best
on earth instead of the last.
| Left: Tom
LaPoint, left, and graduate student Bryan Brooks examine the
effects of chemicals on aquatic organisms. Right: Jim Kennedy,
right, and graduate student Jason Taylor observe mayflies at
UNT's Water Research Field Station.