Ogallala Aquifer Virtual Summit 2021 Bios

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Kick-​off keynote

John Tracy (TX Water Resources Institute) works to connect Texas A&M University faculty and staff with a wide range of local, state, federal and private entities, to develop and move forward initiatives that address pressing water resources issues facing Texas, the region and the nation. 

His recent work focuses on developing an integrated understanding of the behavior of water resource systems under the influence of changing hydrologic, economic, and social conditions, as well as improving methods of engaging water managers and users in advancing their understanding of water resource systems. 

Panel #1: Water: what motivates action?

Moderator: Dr. Hannah Birgé (pronounced “burr-​SHAY”) is a soil scientist and the Director of Agriculture for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska, where she engages academic and traditional knowledge sources to co-​develop conservation solutions in agriculture. 

Using a project based model, Hannah and her team collaborate with diverse partners to implement practices on working farms that are scientifically sound and operationally realistic. Her water and soil health projects together engage over sixty producers, three natural resources districts, and multiple agribusinesses and university researchers. These projects are designed to address immediate on-​farm conservation needs in Nebraska while providing prototypes for the kind of agriculture needed to sustain the planet’s estimated 9.8 billion people in 2050.

Dr. Birgé also serves on the Nebraska governor’s Healthy Soils Task Force and as co-​lead for the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium’s soil carbon research working group. She earned her BA in Biology from St. Olaf College, MS in Ecology from Colorado State University, and her PhD in Natural Resources Sciences and Applied Ecology from University of Nebraska-​Lincoln. She is an expert in soil carbon science, translational science, and knowledge co-​development.

Brandi Baquera serves as program coordinator for the Colorado Master Irrigator program, bringing five years of experience in groundwater management to the team. Colorado Master Irrigator is a 32-​hour course designed and run by a diverse group of local producers, professionals, and educators in the Republican River Basin. Based on the successful Master Irrigator program from the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District in Texas, Colorado Master Irrigator began its journey in 2019 and had its first class of 22 local producers and consultants successfully complete the course in the spring of 2020. The program is supported by grants awarded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, local Groundwater Management Districts via the RRWCD, Colorado Water Center, and the Water Preservation Partnership.

Gina Gigot is a member/​operator of Circle Land & Cattle, located in Finney County, KS. Gina and her brother Marc have placed acreage they control into a Water Conservation Area for which they’ve committed to reducing water use on the operation for a 5-​year period extending from 2018-​2022, and are engaging in a range of water/​land management strategies to satisfy this obligation in an effort to stem aquifer decline.

Dr. Jason Warren’s research and extension program focuses on soil conservation management practices in no-​till cropping systems, with the goal of reducing environmental impacts of agricultural land management while maintaining or increasing economic viability.

Dr. Warren provides leadership for a multidisciplinary team of agronomists and crop production extension specialists to help producers realize benefits of no-​till management resulting from increased soil moisture conservation. Dr. Warren’s team also evaluates cropping systems management and irrigation strategies to maximize grain production under limited irrigation including subsurface drip irrigation, with a particular focus on grain sorghum.

Dr. Robert Hagevoort, a native of The Netherlands, is an Associate Professor and Extension Dairy Specialist at New Mexico State University. Prior to joining NMSU in November of 2005, Dr. Hagevoort served for over 10 years as an independent dairy management consultant primarily in California’s southern and central Valley. As an Extension Specialist, he has been working closely with the dairy industry in New Mexico and across the West regarding many regulatory and environmental issues.

In an effort to rebuild a dairy program, Hagevoort is one of the co-​founders of the U.S. Dairy Education & Training Consortium, which provided the incentive for a re-​establishment of a minor in dairy at NMSU. A key component of his current program is the development and implementation of a comprehensive dairy workforce training & safety program. A great deal of time is spent working individually with dairies and collectively with producer associations on implementing and evaluating comprehensive workforce training programs in dairy safety, animal handling, parlor performance, calf care, feeder performance, and hospital and maternity care. A recent direction, because of expressed producer needs, is a focus on the development of effective middle-​manager training programs.

Panel #2: Managing risk with limited water

Moderator: Joel Lisonbee. In addition to a natural enthusiasm for the weather and climate, Joel also has a Master’s degree in atmospheric sciences from the University of Utah. He has 11 years of experience working as a climatologist, including 10 years in Australia, where he worked with Australian agriculture as they managed the severe drought conditions of recent years. For the past year, Joel has been working with the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) as the regional drought information system coordinator for the Southern Plains and Intermountain West regions. Joel understands how weather and water related risks can have a huge impact on a company’s bottom line. His goal is to provide the right weather, climate and water information that can mitigate risk and add measurable value to people preparing for or experiencing drought. 

NIDIS was first authorized by Congress in 2006, and reauthorized in 2014 and 2018. Our mission is to enable the Nation to move from a reactive to a more proactive approach to managing drought risks and impacts. NIDIS is Authorized to engage in partnerships with federal, tribal, state, and local partners, as well as the private sector, academic institutions, and citizen scientists.

Anne Bartuszevige joined the Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV) in 2008 as Conservation Science Director and brings a wealth of experience focused on grassland ecosystems, avian science, and private lands conservation. After completing her Ph.D. in Botany at Miami University in Ohio, she was a post-​doc researcher at Oregon State University’s Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center in Union, Oregon. As a post-​doc, Anne became convinced of the enormous opportunity and importance of integrating conservation into farm and ranch operations to benefit wildlife and keep people on the landscape, an ethic core to PLJV’s mission. PLJV has been working with producers and rural communities to incorporate playas into water conservation planning through their Tomorrow’s Water campaign and have begun developing tools to demonstrate the value of conserving playas such as the new Playa Recharge and Wetness Estimator.

Meagan Schipanski is an Associate Professor in the Department of Soil and Crops at Colorado State University. Her research applies concepts from ecology and biogeochemistry to study how plant-​soil interactions mediate nutrient cycling and organic matter dynamics, with a focus on placing this research within broader social and economic contexts. Her research group’s projects include:

· Plant mediation of nitrogen mineralization through shifts in belowground carbon allocation

· Utilizing plant diversity to improve nutrient use efficiency and cropping system resilience

· Dryland crop rotation strategies and their impacts on soil conservation and water holding capacity

· Understanding cropping system intensity impacts on soil erodibility.

Ken McCarty. Upon graduation from Wyalusing Valley High School in northeastern Pennsylvania in June of 2001 I moved to Kansas where I attended Kansas State University. I majored in Animal Science and Industry with a production management option. During my time at K-​State I was heavily involved in the Dairy Science club, Ag Student Council, the Dairy Cattle Judging team and many other activities. After my graduation in the spring of 2005 I returned to work at my family’s dairy farm located in Rexford, Kansas. My family and I have grown our dairy from 1,500 milking cows on one farm in 2005 to 13,000 milking cows across five different dairies today. We currently produce roughly 1.3 million pounds of raw Non-​GMO Certified and Validus Certified raw milk per day, of which approximately 685,000 pounds is processed per day through our evaporative condensing plant located in Rexford. We ship all of our products to Danone North America. At present, I am responsible for animal welfare, compliance to third party certifications, sustainability initiatives and public relations along with helping manage the Rexford dairy. I currently live in Colby, Kansas with my beautiful wife Courtney and our three children, Kaeden, age 14, Kohen, age 5, and Krew age 3. Courtney is a Registered Dietician and certified diabetes educator at our local hospital, Kaeden is a freshman involved in almost every activity that Colby has to offer, Kohen attends Colby Grade School as a kindergartner and eats everything in sight and Krew runs the house. 

Ben Holland is Director of Business Development and Operations Analysis at Cactus Feeders in Amarillo, TX. In this role, he works at the intersection of biology and economics to inform strategy and decision making in supply chain and management systems in the feedyard and grazing cattle operations. At Cactus, he has also directed formal research in the areas of cattle nutrition, health, growth and development, and carcass quality as well as feedyard operational efficiency.

Originally from the Texas Panhandle, Ben grew up working alongside his dad on a stocker cattle operation. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Texas Tech University and Masters and Ph.D. degrees in Animal Nutrition from Oklahoma State University. He recently completed a MBA (West Texas A&M) in 2019. Prior to joining Cactus in 2015, Ben was Extension Feedlot Specialist at South Dakota State University and in livestock technical services with Merck Animal Health. In his spare time, Ben enjoys reading and travel with his wife, Jenise.

Panel #3 Water + Communities

Moderator Susan Metzger joined Kansas State University in March 2018 and serves as the Senior Executive Administrator to the Dean of the College of Agriculture and Director of K-​State Research and Extension. Prior to joining K-​State, Susan served as Deputy Secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture where she led the agency’s policy efforts related to water and natural resources and oversaw the agency’s legal and human resources departments. Prior to joining KDA, she served as the Chief of Planning and Policy for the Kansas Water Office for eleven years. She also serves as the team leader for the development of the Vision for the Future of Water Supply in Kansas. Before moving to Kansas in 2003, Mrs. Metzger served as the manager of the environmental section of a land development and engineering firm in Chantilly, Virginia.​Mrs. Metzger has a B.S. in Biological Sciences/​Botany from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia and a M.S. in Biological Sciences from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Leadership Communication from Kansas State University.

Gerald and Tim Franklin are father and son farmers in Sherman County, were not only the first family in Kansas to enroll in a Water Conservation Area, but they were also one of the first farms to be involved with the Water Technology Farm at Northwest Kansas Technical College in Goodland. Along with their spouses, Linda and Katherine, they believe in saving water for the next generation.

C.E. Williams has served as General Manager of Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District (PGCD) since 1990. He oversees all PGCD day to day activities, programs and 10 employees of the District and is very actively involved with groundwater issues in the Texas Legislature and the State’s water agencies. He grew up on family farm in Carson County, owned and managed farm and ranch operation prior to becoming GM of PGCD. He attended West Texas A&M University. He is an active member First Baptist Church where he serves as Deacon. C. E. and wife Kay have 2 children and 5 grandchildren. He is the current Chairman of Panhandle Regional Water Planning Group – Region A and Past Presiding Officer of Texas Water Conservation Advisory Council. He is a current Board member of Texas Water Foundation and Member and Past President of: Texas Water Conservation Association and the Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts. He is the distinguished recipient of several awards, including the Goodwin Regional Public Administrator Award in 2002 from the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission,

The “State Friend of Extension Award” from Epsilon Sigma Phi, National Honorary Extension Fraternity in 2003, “Man of the Year in Texas Agriculture – 2008” from Texas County Agricultural Agents Association, and the 2020 Crown of Texas Water Conservation Award.

Russell Isaacs farms near Turpin, OK. He leads the Oklahoma Panhandle Irrigators, a producer-​led organization that is involved in developing and communicating strategies for the efficient use of water resources including water conservation, water re-​use, augmentation, and other water management strategies to promote economic development for the benefit of the citizens and environment of the Oklahoma Panhandle.

Dustin Meyer is the current Local Government Service Director for the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission (PRPC). Dustin has been with PRPC for the last 5 years and oversees all projects and programs within the Local Government Services Department. These programs include Regional Water Planning, Economic Development, Contract City Management, Texas Revenue Recovery Association, Public Transportation Planning, Rural Planning Organizations (transportation), Community Development Block Grants, Strategic Planning, and other special contracts within the region. Through his tenure with PRPC Dustin has overseen millions of dollars in grants from multiple funding agencies.

In 2017, Dustin was selected by the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Research Foundation for the second class of the Training Program for Emerging Leaders (TPEL), a leadership training program funded by the Austin Regional Office of the U.S. Economic Development Administration. Additionally, Dustin’s work on the Potter County Strategic Plan won a 2018 NADO Innovation Award. In 2016, Dustin earned the Certified Public Manager distinction form Texas State University and in 2003 he graduated Summa Cum Laude from West Texas A&M University with a Bachelors in Political Science.

Thursday, February 25, 2021


David Brauer is Lab Director for the Conservation and Production Research Laboratory (CPRL) and Research Leader for the Soil and Water Management Research Unit (SWMRU), plus the Ogallala Aquifer Program Manager.

Kick-​off keynote

Natalie Houston is a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Oklahoma-​Texas Water Science Center in Austin, Texas. She specializes in groundwater hydrology, geospatial-​data analysis, and data management and has served as the water-​use specialist since 2010. Natalie holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Masters of Applied Geography from Texas State University. She is licensed by the Texas Board of Professional Geoscientists.

Panel #4 Water + common ground

Moderator: Kylen Hunt’s work with Transformational Water Solutions (TWS Consulting) is focused on ensuring every future generation has readily available access to fresh clean water. Water used to sustain plant, animal, and human lives. We’re achieving this goal by uniting a high-​quality technology platform together with high-​quality entrepreneurs who desire to develop a highly valuable business in water conservation. Kylen is also available to speak and consult with organizations on how to implement leadership as the vehicle to improve technology adoption in the agricultural water industry.

Billy Tiller is an ag innovator has who held Leadership roles in Rural Telecommunications, Ag Banking, Ag Technology, and Ag Production. He is the co-​founder and CEO of Grower Information Services Cooperative, which was founded in 2012 as the world’s first ag data cooperative. GiSC is actively involved in a project with the Twin Platte NRD in Nebraska to create and help implement their Water Data Program that started in 2019.

Adam Boryca was born and raised on a farm in Central Nebraska (Fullerton) that raised irrigated corn, beans, alfalfa, and had a cow/​calf operation. After graduating high school attended Wayne State College in Wayne Nebraska and earning degrees in Business Management and Agri-​business. 

He started in his first ag banking job in South Central Nebraska (Byron). The majority of farming in the area was dryland corn, beans, and wheat. After a two-​year stint, Adam moved to West Central Nebraska (Cozad) to Homestead Bank and has been with that organization for the last 25 years. During his tenure he started as a junior Loan Officer and has been promoted to his current position of President. Homestead Bank has seven locations throughout West Central, Central, and Northeast Nebraska and its main focus is financing agricultural operations. These operations consist of mainly corn, bean and alfalfa production, both dryland and irrigated. Homestead Bank also finances many livestock producers, of which most are cow/​calf or cattle feeding operations. 

Outside of the bank, Adam owns irrigated farm Real Estate in Central Nebraska and runs a small cow/​calf herd, which drives his personal interest in natural resources. 

Cory Gilbert was raised on a family farm and cattle feeding operation in Eastern Colorado. As a graduate of Colorado State University, Cory’s passion for agriculture brought him back to Burlington. He started his business, On Target Ag Solutions to create agronomic solutions for producers involving farm technology to increase profitability and sustainability of their operations. Cory continues to be involved in his family’s farming operation, which allows him to keep a farmer’s perspective on all of facets of his own company and provide their operation with the same benefits that his company’s clients experience.

Matt Long is a producer and serves as an agricultural consultant and seed advisor with his company Red Barn Enterprises, Inc. Based near Leoti, KS, Matt served as an advocate to help educate and engage in local community efforts as part of developing the Witchita County Water Conservation Area, as well as participating in other effors, such as establishing a Water Technology Farm, to conserve and extend the usable life of the Ogallala aquifer.

Panel #5 Effective communications and training the next generation of water leaders

Moderator: Weston McCary is a highly energetic technology and education professional with twenty-​four years of industry experience and twelve years in higher education. During his time in industry McCary has held engineering, management and other leadership positions with several regional and global companies where he worked on various projects ranging from civil and environmental engineering, electromagnetic soil mapping, topographic surveying, RTK machine control, aerial/​UAS mapping operations, CAD/​CAM/​GIS applications, variable rate agricultural, and water technology.

Weston is a pilot and holds several technical and industry certifications, along with his graduate studies in Geomatics at the University of Colorado Denver, a B.S. in Aerospace Science from Metro State University Denver, an A.A.S. in Engineering Technology and Professional Pilot certificate from Aims Community College. During his last twelve years in industry, he was also an adjunct instructor at Aims Community College, where he taught Precision Agriculture, Engineering Technology, CAD and GIS. In 2015, he started the Precision Agriculture program at Northwest Kansas Technical College where he is currently the Director. Since then the Ag program has been a part of several research and conservation oriented projects, including the KWO Water Technology Farms initiative and the Northwest Kansas Groundwater Conservation Foundation’s Master Irrigator program. 

Jerod McDaniel farms/​ranches in Texhoma, Oklahoma. He and his wife Julie have six awesome children that they raise together in the country. Jerod hosts the “AgUncensored” podcast and can be found on twitter @Jerod McDaniel 

Katherine Drury is the Education and Outreach Coordinator at the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District. Katherine was raised in Tyler, Texas, and moved to Lubbock in 2009 to pursue a degree in Journalism at Texas Tech University.

Prior to joining the HPWD staff in September 2016, Katherine worked as a producer and agriculture reporter at KJTV-​-​FOX34 in Lubbock.

Katherine serves on the City of Lubbock Water Advisory Commission and is also a member of the Lubbock Master Gardeners. Katherine, her husband Aaron, and daughter live in Lubbock.

Mr. David Smith is an Extension Program Specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and 4-​H Youth Development in College Station, Texas. For more than 20 years he has created and delivered educational resources and programs related to water resources, water conservation, irrigation, water treatment, and farm safety. In 2017, David initiated the 4-​H Water Ambassadors Program designed to provide experiential and continuing education opportunities for high school youth who gain advanced knowledge and develop leadership skills related to the science, technology, engineering and management of water. David earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Agricultural Engineering and a Masters of Water Management from Texas A&M University in College Station.

Amy Hammett launched a Next Generation Data Science Education (DSE) initiative in 2018, using big data analytics to develop a sustainable water-​use model and a predictive harmful algal bloom model. Seeking to stimulate new workforce infrastructure and data decision-​making capacity, she and her teams of young adults in Maize, KS uncovered and aggregated patterns in their own data collected with USGS-​KS hydrologists. Amy also then developed a risk scoring method for data fusion of USGS, USDA, NASA, and NOAA big data to extract data intelligence for machine learning, which she and her students shared with local, state, and federal stakeholders, with Ag and Science researchers, with national Agriculture and Science Education leaders, and with Ag Tech and Microsoft Cloud developers in 2020. Within the last year, she also developed new big data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence Science and Ag Science Education curriculum for Future Farmers of America, the Center for Agriculture Science Education, and the College Board’s AP Environmental Science team as a Big Data Consultant for MicrosoftThis upcoming year, to further workforce development and to build redundancy in big data visualization across all systems, she anticipates potentially taking a sabbatical from teaching in Maize, KS to increase collaboration with USGS - Youth Education in Science. She and her husband James live in Haven, KS, where they raised 4 boys, pigs, chickens, and produce.

Closing remarks

Macy Downs is a high school senior and third year Texas 4-​H Water Ambassador from Yoakum County, Texas.

2021 Ogallala Aquifer Virtual Summit Lead Moderator Ryan Golten is a senior mediator and facilitator with the Consensus Building Institute, a nationally and internationally known non-​profit with 25 years of expertise in collaborative problem solving on natural resources and public policy issues. A former attorney, Ryan brings over 15 years of experience facilitating multi-​stakeholder approaches to complex water planning and natural resources disputes. Ryan is known for her ability to navigate complex regulatory and technical contexts while bringing stakeholders together to find common ground and reach broadly supported outcomes. Ryan has taught mediation, facilitation and consensus building to a variety of public and private sector audiences, including water professionals and leaders. She received a J.D., magna cum laude, from the University of New Mexico and lives in Colorado.

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