Alcoa grant to fund field station boat dock
— From left: Britt Scheer, manager of the Gum Springs Alcoa plant; Kathy Combs of Alcoa; Jennifer Boyett, vice president for university advancement; Dr. John Hardee, dean of Ellis College; Allen Leible, field station manager; and Dr. Steve Adkison, provost and vice president for academic affairs.
A $25,000 grant from the Alcoa Foundation will fund the construction of a boat dock at Henderson State University’s Simonson Biological Field Station. The ADA accessible dock will provide convenient access to navigable shoreline and waterways to collect and study water samples and plant and animal specimens at DeGray Lake.
“The dock will allow students and researchers easy, fast, and safe entry into both our pontoon boat or jon boat,” said Dr. Troy Bray, associate professor of biology. “Without the dock, it is a labor and time intensive task that involves using the station’s tractor since the dirt ramp is not suitable for vehicles to launch and load boats.”
When the lake is low, students must tread through knee-deep mud to reach and climb aboard the boat, Bray said.
“Of course, this makes it impossible for some students to participate. The dock will be fully ADA compliant assuring all students the opportunity to join in field work.”
The pontoon boat provides a living classroom for courses such as ornithology and biogeography. Research in plant and animal populations can now be expanded to remote shores and islands on DeGray Lake.
“The dock will allow the boats to remain in the lake and ready to use at a moment’s notice year round,” Bray said. “Additionally, it will save time and money on winterizing and storage costs for the pontoon boat.”
The dock will also provide area fire and rescue departments quicker and more effective shoreline protection access, and facilitate weekly eagle monitoring operations conducted by Henderson biology students and field station personnel from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
“We thank the Alcoa Foundation for this generous grant to strengthen the learning experience at Henderson’s field station,” said Dr. John Hardee, dean of Ellis College and professor of chemistry. “A new boat dock will enhance our field courses and our plant and animal research on DeGray Lake.”
The Alcoa Foundation is one of the largest corporate foundations in the U.S., and for the past 60 years has sought to make a difference in more than 20 countries where Alcoa operates.
In addition to addressing local needs in communities, Alcoa Foundation is focused on promoting environmental stewardship, enabling economic and social sustainability, and preparing tomorrow’s leaders through education and learning.
The Simonson Biological Field Station opened in 2011 at DeGray Lake near Bismarck. It was constructed with donations from the Simonson family.
The three-story log structure, located on 104 acres leased from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, includes living accommodations, classrooms, laboratories, and office space. Allen Leible is field station manager.