Major Gift to UNT’s AERI Provides New Environmental Research Opportunities

August 31, 2020
aerial image
researcher doing water experiment outside
AERI's Water Research Field Station has 24 experimental streams and 46 ponds used in aquatics research but no physical building to conduct research or classes.

COLLEGE OF SCIENCE

The College of Science is proud to announce that major upgrades will soon be made to a crucial research laboratory under the Advanced Environmental Research Institute (AERI), made possible by a generous anonymous donation. The $300,000 gift promises to significantly improve UNT's existing Water Research Field Station with a permanent lab facility and educational resources.

Located eight miles from UNT, the 18-acre Water Research Field Station contains 24 experimental streams and 46 ponds used in aquatics research, but has not had a physical building to conduct research or classes. The gift will enable the institute to acquire a 2,000 square foot modular building with room for a 40-60 student classroom, two lab spaces with benchtops and work areas, a community office workspace, a small break room and a restroom.

"The Water Research Field Station is crucial in our studies of aquatic resources," says Aaron Roberts, director of AERI. "With this incredible donation, we're now able to make improvements that will allow us to perform more long-term research projects, expand our educational resources, and explore collaborative studies with other disciplines. The laboratory and additional workspaces are going to be a huge game changer for water research at UNT. We're very excited."

Water is an increasingly limited resource for economic growth, human consumption, and maintenance of aquatic ecosystems. The facilities at the Water Research Field Station will be able to incorporate expertise from various disciplines to research water management, water quality and other important ecological issues.

The impact of this new space for learning and research is enormous. AERI expects exponential growth in the number of students and researchers who can utilize the Field Station, and educational access for learners of all ages will be enhanced through virtual lab experiments and ongoing monitoring via the station's improved cameras and technology.

Because AERI is focused on creating avenues of education and collaboration in the community, an increase in public engagement is also expected. This will include tours for retirement groups, Master Naturalists, schools, local community members, local government, citizen scientists and others. Additionally, the Water Research Field Station will be a forum for scientific communication by creating on-line accessible materials for teachers, incorporating a classroom into the building's design, and hosting facility tours and events.

Site preparation has already begun at the Water Research Field Station; completion of the project is expected in early 2021, with lab work anticipated to begin in the Spring semester.

The Advanced Environmental Research Institute (AERI) was established in recognition of UNT's strong and growing environmental and water research program, and in accord with the values and mission of UNT. Comprised of members that form a multidisciplinary team, AERI seeks to understand how human actions impact the environment.