For the past 50 years, the National Center for Water Quality Research (formerly the Water Quality Lab) has been at the forefront of data collection, monitoring, research and outreach in support of sustainable use of soil and water resources. Those who created the lab, those who have worked tirelessly to sustain it and those who will see it into the next five decades came together Thursday night to celebrate its accomplishments and contributions.
Much of the credit for the lab’s enduring success goes to founder Dr. David Baker, ’58, who served as director for more than 30 years. “Data Dave,” as he is known, saw an opportunity as a young biology professor to bring science into the classroom and make it real for his students. A few years later, in 1969, the lab became an offshoot of that experiential learning in which students meticulously collected data from river water.
The data sets that had their early beginnings with Dave’s class have become very important to the broader aquatic and agricultural world, said Dr. Ken Baker, professor emeritus of biology who has spent the past two years researching and writing a comprehensive history of the NCWQR.
In the book that will be available next week, Ken chronicled the staff and activities of the lab through its decades, including the work of Dave Baker, who was “ahead of his time.” The book has been a “two-year work of love,” Ken said.
During the celebration, those impacted by the lab took the opportunity to give personal testimonials about what it’s meant to them. Current Director Dr. Laura Johnson also provided her insights about what’s ahead in the coming years.
The celebration was the kickoff of this weekend’s Science Celebration, which includes a reunion of science alumni who have returned to campus to share their research and work experiences.