STARKVILLE, Miss.--The leader of a statewide research institute based at Mississippi State is stepping down.
Wayne Wilkerson, director of the Mississippi Water Resources Research Institute, 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.
An associate professor of landscape architecture and university alumnus, Wilkerson also expressed confidence that the organization "will continue to grow and prosper under new leadership."
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.
Joe Street, MSU Extension Service associate director, took over as interim director Feb. 1. A veteran administrator, he has an extensive research background in many areas that are related to water resources, particularly water usage in the Delta.
Since its creation in the 1980s, the institute's research and development programs have given particular focus to economic and environmental issues affecting water resources in the Magnolia State. (For more, see www.wwri.msstate.edu.)
Highlights of Wilkerson's MWRRI tenure include, among others:
--Signing a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to create 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 MSU 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, MSU vice president for research and economic development.
The MWRRI director reports jointly to Shaw and Gregory Bohach, vice president for agriculture, forestry and veterinary medicine.
Observing that "agriculture is the largest segment of our state's economy, and water is one of our greatest assets," Bohach went on to praise Wilkerson's leadership and the institute work for having "a significant impact on the economy, as well as the environment."
In announcing Street's new duties, Shaw said, "Joe understands the complex issues, as well as the multi-faceted challenges, that help determine effective management of our state's water resources."
A research scientist and extension specialist, Street earlier led the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville and North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona.
Bohach said the search for a permanent director will begin later this year.