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Dave Engle named holder of OSU's Thomas E. Berry Endowed Chair


Facilitating scientific inquiry into ways to sustain and enhance Oklahoma's water supplies may be a tall order, but it is one looked upon as a meaningful challenge by Oklahoma State University's Dave Engle, holder of the Thomas E. Berry Endowed Chair in Integrated Water Research and Extension.

"Oklahoma and the region need innovative, sustainable and, most importantly, the right solutions when it comes to our water resources," Engle said. "Water will certainly be an increasingly pressing issue for society, whether the specific issue is a matter of policy, conservation, hydrology or plant breeding and genetics."

Dick and Malinda Berry Fischer of Stillwater established the water research and management professorship in honor of Malinda's father, Thomas E. Berry, a noted oilman in north central Oklahoma. The Board of Regents for the Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical Colleges officially approved Engle as holder of the chair on July 24.

The professorship focuses on sustaining Oklahoma's agricultural water supply, with an emphasis on helping producers, landowners and the public make informed and beneficial decisions about water use and efficiency.

Engle, a Regents professor who serves as director of the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources' Water Research and Extension Center, said the endowed professorship enhances the status of the center, division and university.

"It's a very prestigious honor, adding credibility and stature to the unit in terms of the scientific community," he said. "The Fischer's investment vividly illustrates a public belief that water issues are of importance to Oklahoma and the region, while also showing their belief that DASNR has a great deal to offer in helping individuals and organizations solve pressing water-related concerns."

Water issues in agriculture have been identified as high-priority areas of emphasis for all three aspects of the division, which is comprised of the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and two statewide agencies: the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station system and Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.

The division has more investment in water research, education and public service than any other entity in the state, said Robert E. Whitson, DASNR dean and director and vice president of agricultural programs at OSU.

"Our ultimate goal is to help Oklahomans make improved water-use decisions, provide a more dependable water supply and maintain or promote water quality," he said. "The Thomas E. Berry endowed chair is helping to make that possible, while at the same time honoring the legacy of Mr. Berry, a longtime Payne County resident who firmly believed that water research was as important as oil research."

Born in Ripley, Okla. in 1906, Berry pioneered the use of waste-water effluent to irrigate farmland in Payne County. By implementing this process, he eliminated toxicity in water, resulting in thicker grasslands.

Engle considers it an honor to hold the endowed chair that honors Berry's belief in the importance of and commitment to water quality, use and management.

"Today's complex water issues require that research and Extension work together more closely than ever, all the while adjusting to the intricacies of public decision making," he said. "We're trying to make it as easy as possible for division scientists to integrate their expertise, a process very much in keeping with the ideas and ideals of Mr. Berry."

Engle joined the OSU faculty in 1983, serving for more than 20 years before leaving to become head of Iowa State University's department of natural resource ecology and management. He rejoined the OSU faculty in 2008 to assume his current position as center director.

His professional affiliations include the Society for Range Management; Ecological Society of America; Wildlife Society; Association for Fire Ecology; Council for Agriculture, Science and Technology; International Association for Landscape Ecology and the Nature Conservancy, among others.

Engle earned his bachelor's degree in range science and master's degree in wildlife biology from Abilene Christian University in 1972 and 1975, respectively. He earned his doctoral degree in range science from Colorado State University in 1978.

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