As president of the nonprofit Arlington Conservation Council, Dick Schoech has many questions about how the Tarrant County city will tackle looming environmental challenges.
How can Arlington successfully battle invasive plant species in its parks? What plans should the city consider to address the impacts of climate change?
Thanks to the council’s newly established endowment supporting environmental research at UT-Arlington, Schoech soon may get some answers.
“We are just happy to have some way to tap into the power of UTA and get younger people interested in the environment,” Schoech said. “The Office of Research is the best place to start, especially since UTA is moving much deeper into research with becoming a Texas Tier One school.”
Conservation council members are seeking donations to support undergraduate scholarships and grants for students who want to pursue environmental projects alongside faculty members.
The council’s board has secured a 3-to-1 match for the first $10,000 raised through its website. If the environmental group can meet its goal by Feb. 15, UT-Arlington students could start receiving grants between $500 and $1,000 this fall, Schoech said.
There are still several details to sort out between UT-Arlington and the council, including how involved council leaders will be in selecting their favorite environmental research proposals, Schoech said.
James P. Grover, UTA’s interim vice president for research, said the endowment will focus on advancing “research projects related to conservation of Arlington’s natural environment.”
“The university’s award committee looks forward to launching the open application process and reviewing competitive submissions from our student and faculty research teams,” Grover said in a statement.
Preference will be given to students with ideas that benefit Arlington directly and work across disciplines, such as film production or other subjects outside of environmental science, Schoech said.
Council members have their own suggestions for students, including research projects on how cities document the economic value of natural spaces in urban areas and how to recruit younger generations to environmental groups in the Metroplex. Like similar organizations in North Texas, most Arlington Conservation Council members are retirees, Schoech said.
“The Sierra Club, Audubon Society, the parks groups – they’re all pretty much retired people,” he said. “And we’re not getting any younger. So if these students can link their work with environmental and community organizations, that would encourage more partnerships.”
John Dycus, a longtime group member who served as the advisor to UT-Arlington’s student newspaper for nearly three decades, said the impact of the endowment will be seen in how student research changes perceptions about Arlington.
“There’s already great work being done at Randol Mill Park and many others, but this could help showcase it,” Dycus said. “This scholarship can help Arlington improve its identity as a sustainable city. That’s what I think is most important.”
Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman Foundation. Contact her by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.