SEJ's 25th Annual Conference Agenda — Thursday



Day Tours
Independent Hospitality Receptions


Agenda Coverage Lodging/ Travel Exhibits/Receptions Environmental News About Norman



Thursday, October 8, 2015


4:30 - 10:00 a.m. and Noon - 5:00 p.m.
Location: In the foyer of the Embassy Suites & Conference Center, 2501 Conference Drive, Norman, Okla., near the glass doors to the parking lot

If you didn't sign up ahead of time for the Friday dinner and movie, Saturday night party or Sunday brunch at the National Weather Center, there may still be room — please check with registration.


SEJ Information Table

4:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Location: In the Convention Center foyer near registration

Sign up here for Friday night's Open Screen (guidelines) and Saturday mini-tours. Read up on SEJ Board candidates, and find information about SEJ Award winners, membership and services. Pick up copies of SEJournal and other SEJ information.


Tours in the Field

Advance registration and a fee are required for all Thursday tours. Registered tour attendees should report to the staging area no later than 15 minutes before their scheduled departure time. All tours depart promptly at the times listed below and return to the Embassy Suites about 5:00 p.m.

Buses will stage and depart from the Embassy Suites just outside the doors near registration. If you’ve not registered yet, stop by registration to pick up your conference materials.

For buses leaving at 6:00 a.m. or earlier, a cash-and-carry kiosk will have breakfast items you can purchase.

Due to morning-of cancellations or available space, some tours may be able to take standby passengers. Standby passengers should report 15 minutes prior to departure and have the tour fee available. Standby passengers will be admitted on a first-come/first-served basis, after those already on a wait list.

Buses will return to the Embassy Suites about 5:00 p.m. for the Independent Hospitality Receptions, where you'll find hors d'oeuvres, drinks, press kits and good cheer in the Oklahoma Ballroom.


Statue of Chief Standing Bear.
              Photo courtesy of
          Standing Bear Park


1. Diving into Tallgrass — and Wind

(5:00 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

Come watch the sunrise over the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, one of the last swaths of unspoiled prairie on the planet. After spending the morning hiking — maybe spotting a bison or two — we’ll meet with citizens of the Osage Nation to check out several local wind farm operations and find out why they have been the source of federal litigation. We’ll wrap up the afternoon at the Standing Bear Museum and Education Center in Ponca City, named for the 19th century Ponca chief who forced the U.S. government to formally acknowledge that Native Americans were people with rights under the law. Total drive time – 6 hours. Coverage.

Tour Leaders:
Jane Braxton Little, Freelance Journalist
Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton, Freelance Journalist

Casey Camp-Horinek, Native Rights Activist, Environmentalist and Actress, and member of the Ponca Nation
Jeffrey Clark, Executive Director, The Wind Coalition (Oklahoma)
Vicki Monks, Freelance Writer
Clint Patterson, Assistant Attorney General, Osage Nation
Harvey Payne, Community Relations Coordinator, Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, The Nature Conservancy (Oklahoma)
Jay Pruett, Director of Conservation, The Nature Conservancy (Oklahoma)
Louise Red Corn, Editor and Renaissance Woman, The Bigheart Times
Holli Wells, Attorney General, Osage Nation
Standing Bear Museum and Education Center representative TBA



2. Tar Creek: A Superfund Study in Environmental Justice

(5:30 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

Photo courtesy U.S. EPA

Tar Creek was once one of the world’s largest mining sites for lead, cadmium and zinc; mine tailings still loom nearly a mile high above a town that no longer exists. Children in Picher, OK, used to play on the tailings, while toxic lead-laden dust blew into their homes. In 1983, after the mines were shuttered, the U.S. EPA added Tar Creek to its Superfund list and Picher’s residents are now mostly gone. But the Quapaw Tribe is still coping with the aftermath. We’ll tour the area, share lunch with tribal elders and hear from scientists and government officials about how cleanup is progressing. We’ll also watch a 2006 PBS documentary, “The Creek Runs Red,” on the bus. Total drive time – 6.5 hours. Coverage.

Tour Leaders:
Karen Schaefer, Freelance Journalist and Independent Radio Producer
Lisa Snell, Editor, Native American Times

William Andrews, Director, Oklahoma Water Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey
Rebecca Jim, Executive Director and Founder, Local Environmental Action Demanded Agency, Inc.
Robert Nairn, Sam K. Viersen Family Foundation Presidential Professor, School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science; Director, Center for Restoration of Ecosystems and Watersheds; and Associate Director, Water Technologies for Emerging Regions Center, University of Oklahoma
Scott Thompson, Executive Director, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality


3. Drought and Climate Change Impacts in Air, Water and Agriculture

(6:00 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

Sustained drought has left southwestern Oklahoma with massive agricultural losses and long-term water supply needs. The situation could worsen: NASA Goddard scientists predict the Great Plains might soon face the worst drought in 1,000 years. Take a road trip to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, home of a herd of 650 bison. We'll take you to the top of Mount Scott, where haze from Texas coal plants sometimes clouds the panoramic views. Hike with climatologists and scientists, talk with water managers, farmers and lawyers and see firsthand how cities, growers and conservationists are coping with a drier, hotter world.
Total drive time – 5 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Douglas Fischer, Director, Environmental Health Sciences
Joe Wertz, Reporter, KOSU Radio, StateImpact Oklahoma

Jeri Fleming, Attorney and Environmental Programs Manager, Water Quality Division, Oklahoma Conservation Commission
Mike Langston, Assistant Director, South Central Climate Science Center
Al Sutherland, Assistant Extension Specialist, Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Oklahoma State University


4. A Taste of Oklahoma Food Research

(6:30 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

See and taste some of the latest research in food production and agricultural sustainability in Oklahoma. At Langston University, Oklahoma’s only historically black university, we’ll learn about goat meat and small ruminant production methods at its world-renowned Institute for Goat Research. Next up, Oklahoma State University’s Food and Ag Products Center — showcasing food safety and organic product marketing. Also planned while on campus: conversations about sustainability, GMOs, food safety and animal well-being with a renowned food and ag economist, and a visit with the premiere wheat breeder in the US Land Grant University System, to talk about cutting edge wheat breeding techniques, whether genetic modification can help wheat breeding and some frank discussion about gluten. Our day will round off with a trip to Ft. Reno’s U.S. Department of Agriculture Research Center. Total drive time – 4 hours. THIS TOUR HAS BEEN CANCELLED.


5. Water Rights — Water Fights

(7:00 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

Schematic section showing flow paths of water in the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer.
                                                   Image courtesy USGS

No area of Oklahoma better illustrates the delicate water balance among industry, communities and landowners than south-central Oklahoma. That’s where the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer provides water to 40,000 people and enjoyment to millions more each year at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. But a recent increase in limestone and sand mining is putting more pressure on perhaps the most sensitive water resource in the state. We’ll tour the back roads to see some shocking water waste, before heading to the recreation area to learn how the depletion of the aquifer is impacting tourism and to hear about the ongoing fight between the state and Native American tribes over who controls the water. Our final stop will be the Kerr EPA National Lab, where experts will tell us what they’re learning about groundwater sustainability.
Total drive time – 3.5 hours. Coverage.

Tour Leaders:
Allen Best, Writer/Journalist
Logan Layden, Reporter, StateImpact Oklahoma

Amy Ford, President, Citizens for the Protection of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer
Jason Lewis, Data Chief, Hydrologic Records Section, Oklahoma Water Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey
Noel Osborn, Hydrologist and Chief of Resource Management, Chickasaw National Recreation Area, National Park Service
Randall Ross, Hydrogeologist, Robert S. Kerr Environmental Research Center, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Shannon Shirley, Member, Citizens for the Protection of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer
Duane Smith, Chickasaw Nation Water Consultant and former Executive Director, Oklahoma Water Resources Board
James Weaver, Hydrologist, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Kim Winton, Director, South Central Climate Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey


6. A Noble Look at Sustainability

(7:30 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

What is soil health? Why would an environmental journalist care about it? Soil is the first line of defense in feeding a world impacted by increasing weather volatility stemming from climate change. Healthy soil helps reduce nitrogen and phosphorus loss from farms. Ardmore, OK, is home to the Noble Foundation, a unique private facility that focuses on agricultural and grasslands research. The campus has more than 90 scientists who conduct grassland research and work with farmers and ranchers. You’ll learn about their research while exploring the facility. You’ll also visit a ranch and learn about sustainable grazing and challenges of encroaching sprawl. Total drive time – 3 hours.

Tour Leader:
Chris Clayton, Agriculture Policy Editor, DTN/The Progressive Farmer

Hugh Aljoe, Program Manager for Pasture and Range, Noble Foundation
Bill Buckner, President and Chief Executive Officer, Noble Foundation and former Chief Executive Officer, Bayer CropScience
Twain Butler, Professor, Forage Agronomy, Forage Improvement Division, Noble Foundation
Adam Calaway, Director of Communications, Noble Foundation
Jimmy Kinder, Farmer (Walters, OK)
Jeff Moen, Director of Business Development, Noble Foundation
Clay Pope, former Oklahoma State Senator and former Director, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts
James Rogers, Assistant Professor, Forage Systems, Agricultural Division, Noble Foundation
Additional Noble Foundation speaker TBA


7. Drilling, Fracking, Disposal and Earthquakes? Oh My!

(8:00 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

Credit: © Brent Fuchs, The Journal Record

Oklahoma is in the heart of several prolific oil formations and is no stranger to the boom and bust cycle. Indeed, several Oklahoma companies have led the drilling boom in the Barnett, Marcellus and Bakken shales. But, those drillers also pioneered water reuse and recycling techniques, designed more efficient and safer rigs, and created high-tech automated systems to monitor disposal operations in real time. Our goal is to get you up close and personal with drilling and disposal operations. We’ll start on the OU campus with an introduction to oil drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Then, into the field to witness companies drawing water from local streams, to check out the cool tools used to drill deep wells and to examine water recycling facilities and a wastewater disposal operation.
Total drive time – 3.5 hours. Coverage.

Tour-related information:

Tour Leaders:
Bobby Magill, Senior Science Writer, Climate Central
Sarah Terry-Cobo, Energy Reporter, The Journal Record (Oklahoma City)
Adam Wilmoth, Energy Editor, The Oklahoman

A.J. Ferate, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association
Monika Freyman, Senior Manager, Water Program, Ceres
Kim Hatfield, President, Crawley Petroleum; and Seismic Coordinating Council Chairman, Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association
Kyle Murray, Hydrogeologist, Oklahoma Geological Survey, and Professor, Mewbourne College of Earth & Energy, University of Oklahoma
Chandra Rai, Professor and Director, Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering, University of Oklahoma
Michael Teague, Secretary of Energy and Environment, State of Oklahoma
Catalin Teodoriu, Associate Professor, Petroleum and Geological Engineering, Mewbourne College of Earth & Energy, University of Oklahoma
Pecan Hill Water Solutions representative TBA


8. Explore the Heart of Indian Country

(8:30 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

Photo courtesy of the Chickasaw Nation

Based on the Choctaw words “Okla” meaning people and “humma” meaning red, Oklahoma is home to 38 federally recognized tribes. On this tour of the Chickasaw Cultural Center and traditional springs, we’ll explore the unique relationship among the Chickasaw Nation, Choctaw Nation and the state over land and water issues. Visit a re-creation of a traditional Chickasaw village, featuring a council house, spiral garden, replica mound, corn crib, stickball fields and more. Learn about multiple aspects of Chickasaw life, including language, recreational activities, cooking demonstrations and cultural displays. Enjoy lunch options from the Aaimpa Café, featuring American Indian food selections. Finish the day with a hike to Chickasaw Springs. Total drive time – 2.5 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Debra Krol, Freelance Journalist and Book Department Editor, Native Peoples Magazine
Rebecca Landsberry, Interim Executive Director, Native American Journalists Association and Communications Director, Native Health News Alliance

Kevin Kemper, Adjunct Lecturer, Native American Studies and LL.M. Candidate, College of Law, University of Oklahoma
Chickasaw Nation representatives TBA


9. National Weather Center: From Balloons to Supercomputers, Forecasting Severe Weather

(9:00 a.m. departure, $40 fee, lunch included)

Science On a Sphere (SOS)® is a global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a six foot diameter sphere.
                      Photo courtesy National Weather Center

Oklahoma is justifiably famous for its severe weather. The National Weather Center, a partnership of OU, NOAA and state agencies, is a world leader in severe weather research. Here, we’ll learn about connections between climate change and severe weather, limitations in forecasting weather and advances around the corner. Tour includes the National Severe Storms Laboratory, where researchers work to improve the accuracy of storm warnings, the Storm Prediction Center, which forecasts the risk of tornadoes and severe weather nationally, the Radar Innovations Lab, used by the military and the weather service to advance their ability to peer into the atmosphere, and the local NOAA forecasting office. Total drive time – 1 hour. Coverage.

Tour Leaders:
Silas Allen, Weather Reporter, The Oklahoman
Doyle Rice, Weather Editor/Reporter, USA TODAY

Mark Benner, Radar Technician, National Severe Storms Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Howie Bluestein, George Lynn Cross Research Professor, National Weather Center, University of Oklahoma
Greg Carbin, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, Storm Prediction Center, National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Chris Fiebrich, System Manager, Oklahoma Mesonet, University of Oklahoma
Jim Kurdzo, Radar Researcher, Radar Innovations Laboratory, Advanced Radar Research Center, University of Oklahoma
Rick Smith, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, Norman Forecast Office, National Weather Service


Independent Hospitality Receptions and Exhibits

5:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Location: Oklahoma Ballroom

Now a popular SEJ tradition, this is the conference’s best networking opportunity. After spending the day out and about on tours, meet with the hosts of multiple receptions. They’ll have experts on hand, as well as displays, materials and, of course, great food and drink. This year we’ll have exhibitors in the mix. Here's a list of the receptions, or find details in your conference bag and at the SEJ information table. Stop by the OU Bookstore during the evening receptions and don’t miss the book-signing event at 8:00 p.m.


Wednesday, October 7
Friday, October 9
Saturday, October 10
Sunday, October 11