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Geosciences/Agriculture Research Gift from Shell Oil

March 24, 2015

Angelo State University has received an $116,500 gift from the Shell Oil Exploration and Production Company to fund a rangeland reclamation research project through joint efforts of the ASU Department of Agriculture and Department of Physics and Geosciences.

(L to R) Dr. Cody Scott, Dr. Mike Salisbury, ASU President Brian J. May, Nancy Tootle of Shell Oil, Dr. James Ward(L to R) Dr. Cody Scott, Dr. Mike Salisbury, ASU President Brian J. May, Nancy Tootle of Shell Oil, Dr. James WardDr. Cody Scott, professor of animal science and range scientist, and Dr. James Ward, assistant professor of geology, will co-direct the one-year project to develop research and strategies for reclaiming West Texas rangelands damaged by salt water spillage and contaminated shallow aquifers as a result of oil field operations. Their efforts will involve soil remediation, sub-surface water removal and the introduction of salt-tolerant plants following the study of soil types, aquifer depths, levels and types of contamination, and the adaptability of specific plants in the various ecological sites. 

Dr. Cody ScottDr. Cody Scott“Ideally, we hope to develop specific recommendations for re-vegetation of sites contaminated with salt water,” Scott said. “Our approach is somewhat unique in that we are combining Dr. Ward’s expertise in identifying the level of contamination with my expertise in re-vegetation.” 

“Different halophytes – plants able to survive in high saline soils – will be identified,” Scott added. “These plants tend to concentrate high levels of salts in their leaves. Then, livestock will be used to harvest the vegetation; otherwise, the plants would return the salts back to the soil once they lose their leaves.” 

In addition to Scott and Ward, select undergraduate and graduate students in ASU’s geosciences and natural resource management programs will participate in the project. 

Dr. James WardDr. James Ward“We will also incorporate the project for educational purposes in our classes,” Ward said, “so many more students will get a chance to participate informally and gain useful information. The best way to learn is through a hands-on approach, and this is a perfect way to provide an active learning environment for our students.” 

“This is a truly beautiful multidisciplinary team of researchers coming together to make West Texas a better place,” Ward added. “It will also aid the involved students in either securing jobs in industry or in their future graduate studies.” 

The research and reclamation efforts will take place on private West Texas ranches and in other West Texas rangeland areas owned by the University of Texas System’s University Lands program. The ultimate goal is to develop the project into a long-term collaborative effort to help remediate multiple regions in West Texas. 

Founded in 1912, Shell is a leading oil and gas producer in the deep-water Gulf of Mexico, a recognized pioneer in oil and gas exploration and production technology, and one of America’s leading oil and natural gas producers, gasoline and natural gas marketers and petrochemical manufacturers. Shell’s environmental grant program focuses on biodiversity initiatives and supports programs that restore critical ecosystems, address water and air quality research, preserve wetlands, and research threatened wildlife and/or habitats. More information is available online at www.shell.us

For more information on the ASU grant project, contact Scott at 325-486-6744 or Ward at 325-486-6767.