ADA – Oka’ the Water Institute at East Central University is committed to providing practical solutions to water issues all Oklahomans face at its fifth annual Water Sustainability Conference, a fact that is reflected in its diverse program of presenters.

“Water sustainability and economic prosperity are interwoven,” said Susan Paddack, director of the ECU-based Oka’ Water Institute. “So the education and presentations at this conference are relevant and timely to all citizens.”

Traditionally hosted on ECU’s campus, the 2020 Water Sustainability Conference takes place online this year in the interest of participant health and safety. Scheduled for September 22-23, the conference will be available as a live event on the Oka’ website at There is no cost to register for the virtual conference

The program for 2020’s virtual conference reads like a “who’s who” of water sustainability experts, featuring presentations by researchers and scientists, farmers and ranchers, water-related business leaders and lawmakers.

“I am excited about our agenda this year,” said Paddack. “We have outstanding speakers who will cover the full spectrum of water quality and quantity, plus discuss the value of water as an economic driver.”

Each of the two days of the conference features a keynote address during the luncheon portion of the program. On Tuesday, Chickasaw Nation Governor and ECU Distinguished Alumnus Bill Anoatubby and will present “Importance of Water to our State.” Wednesday’s luncheon features Braden Milford, Oklahoma’s winner of the 2018 U.S. National Stockholm Junior Water Prize on Designing a Novel Heavy Metal Bioremediation System.

Following is a complete roster of presenters for the 2020 Water Sustainability Conference:


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Tuesday, September 22 (Morning)

· April Richards, Bureau of Reclamation Research Program Manager, Small Business Innovation Research EPA

· Shoaib Shaik, Financial Operations Manager, XploSafe

· Tom Wavering, Tom Love Innovation

· Connor Cox, Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology

Tuesday, September 22 (Afternoon)

· Dr. Hank Jenkins-Smith, Director, National Institute for Risk and Resilience

· Three Oklahoma Leopold Conservation Award Recipients: Jimmy Emmons, Russ Jackson and Chuck Coffey

· Ken Wagner, Secretary of Energy & Environment, State of Oklahoma (water sustainability and soil health)

· Amy Seiger, Soil Health Coordinator, Oklahoma Conservation Commission

· Alan Peoples, Oka’s Watershed Coordinator

Wednesday, September 23 (Morning)

· Julie Cunningham, Executive Director, Oklahoma Water Resources Board

· Scott Thompson, Executive Director, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality

· Rob Singletary, General Counsel, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality

· James Gammill, Chief Executive Officer, Oklahoma Rural Water Association

· Trey Lam, Executive Director, Oklahoma Conservation Commission

· J.D. Strong, Director, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

· Jerry Winchester, Executive Director, Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department

· Legislative Panel including: Oklahoma Senator Greg McCortney, District 13; Oklahoma Senator Dave Rader, District 39; Oklahoma Representative Ronny Johns, House District 25

· Randy Norden, Federal Programs Director, National Rural Water Association

Wednesday, September 23 (Afternoon)

· Jason Lewis, Director, Oklahoma Water Science Center (Eastern Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer Hydrology Study)


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· Shana Mashburn, Studies Chief, Oklahoma-Texas Water Science Center

· Dr. Bruce Moring, Associate Professor of Biological and Environmental Sciences, ECU

· Dr. Barney Austin, AquaStrategies (water issues in Kyrgyzstan)

· Dr. Rajit Patankar, Manager of Field Science, Domain 11 (Southern Plains) with National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) project at the Blue River

Other highlights of the conference include virtual tours of Paddlefish Research occurring at Oklahoma State University, water testing at ERT in Ada, and mobile fluid filtration manufacturing at CNI Manufacturing in Marietta.

“This conference continues to serve as a vital resource for bringing public interest, stakeholders and leaders together,” Paddack said. “It is a true collaboration on how science and public opinion can gain new strategies for sustainable water management, influence policy decision making and to explore new water technologies and innovation.”

Visit to register for this important and free event.

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The Oka’ Institute is pleased to announce a Summer Research Opportunity for faculty of East Central University. The goal of the SRO program is to promote water-based scientific research here at ECU. This research gives undergraduate students an opportunity to experience intensive research with faculty mentors and enrichment activities. The SRO allows professors to submit an idea for an 8-week water-related research project. If selected the professor and research assistants will receive a monetary stipend and allotment for expenses to complete the proposed research. Prospective proposals will be for faculty-initiated research projects that support Oka’s Mission of Building a Sustainable Water Future. Proposals may focus on physical, biological or social science topics that advance Oka’s goals and objectives. To find out more about this opportunity visit:

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Updated: Apr 1, 2020

Alan Peoples receives the Oklahoma award. Pictured with Kristen Gillman, Wildlife Lands and Mineral Coordinator at Oklahoma Department of Wildlife and Conservation Photo by Kristen Gillman.

Alan Peoples a 30-year retiree from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation was honored at the Oklahoma Natural Resources Conference that was held February 10-12, 2020 in Norman, Oklahoma. The award is the ODWC’s most distinguished and was presented to Peoples for his outstanding contribution to the profession of wildlife management in the state of Oklahoma. “I am honored to receive this award. It is very prestigious, and I sincerely appreciate it. The respect of your peers in anything you do should be your goal from the beginning.” says, Peoples. He came to the ODWC with a BS and MS Degrees in Wildlife Ecology, Oklahoma State University. He was hired as an Upland Game Biologist to originate and direct Oklahoma’s first quail enhancement program. This project included landowner education on habitat management and quail research and monitoring. This commitment to quail conservation has helped to lead to a covey rise in the state of Oklahoma. In November 1999, Peoples was promoted to Chief of Wildlife Division where he was responsible for the management of over 100 employees and 1.4 million acres on 87 Wildlife Management Areas. While in this position Peoples partnered with Oklahoma State University’s Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management along with the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research to conduct long-term research programs. He continued to make advancements in wildlife management by helping to facilitate the building of two field stations on Beaver River and Packsaddle WMA’s to be used for wildlife research. Another accomplishment of Peoples while serving as Chief was to help the ODWC acquire over 79,000 acres for habitat and species conservation. Oklahoma being 97 % privately owned, this land procurement provides protection for various wildlife and habitats as well as fulfilled the crucial need for public recreational land. Since retiring Peoples has started a new position as Watershed Coordinator for Oka’ The Water Institute at East Central University and is back to helping landowners implement best management practices. This land management will focus on helping to improve soil health and preserve water resources for the state. Susan Paddack Executive Director for Oka’ says, “we are very proud of Peoples winning the Oklahoma Award and are fortunate to have his experience and expertise as an addition to the Oka’ team.”

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