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2/4/14 - Wilkerson retires; Street named Water Resources Research Institute interim director

The leader of a statewide research institute based at Mississippi State University is stepping down.

Wayne Wilkerson, the director of the Mississippi Water Resources Research Institute (MWRRI), announced his retirement last month.

“I appreciate that I was provided the opportunity to serve the university and our stakeholders through leadership of the Water Institute,” he said.

“I am confident that it will continue to grow and prosper under new leadership,” the associate professor of landscape architecture and MSU alumnus added.

One of more than 50 established nationwide by federal legislation, the MWRRI provides a coordinated research and development program to find solutions to water and water-related land use problems in the state and region. Its projects address a wide range of concerns, including economic development, drinking water quality, groundwater sources, and aquifer and watershed management, among others.

The institute provides a coordinated research and development program focusing on economic and environmental issues affecting water resources in Mississippi. (For more, please see www.wrri.msstate.edu.)

Highlights of Wilkerson’s MWRRI tenure include:

--Signing a memorandum of understanding with the EPA and Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality creating a Center of Excellence for Watershed Management;

--Leading a consortium of Region 4 EPA Centers that won a $200,000 competition to host a national conference at Mississippi State funded by the Southeastern Conference Academic Symposium;

--Working with Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi to help develop a long-term water management strategy at its Blue Springs automotive assembly plant that will serve as a companywide model for future sustainable plant design.

Also of note, state funding for the institute has grown from $120,000 to $240,000, Wilkerson said.

“We appreciate Wayne’s important contributions to the institute and our state,” said David Shaw, vice president for research and economic development at MSU.

The MWRRI director reports jointly to the university's vice presidents for agriculture, forestry and veterinary medicine and for research and economic development.

“Agriculture is the largest segment of our state’s economy, and water is one of our greatest assets,” said DAFVM vice president Gregory Bohach.

“During Wayne’s tenure, the Water Resources Research Institute has had a significant impact on the economy, as well as the environment,” he said.

Joe Street, MSU Extension Service associate director, will serve as interim director of the institute, effective Feb. 1.

The veteran administrator has an extensive research background in many areas that are related to water resources, particularly water usage in the Delta.

“Joe understands the complex issues, as well as the multi-faceted challenges, that help determine effective management of our state’s water resources,” Shaw said.

At Mississippi State, Street has served as head of the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville and the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona, as well as a research scientist and Extension specialist.

A search for a permanent director will begin later this year, Bohach said.

Jim Laird | Public Affairs

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