MARSHALL - Jared Wagner knew studying environmental science at Southwest Minnesota State University was where he belonged from the moment he stepped on campus.
"I visited a few different schools," Wagner said. "But when I came here I met with Dr. (Emily) Deaver. She told me about the program, and it sounded exactly like what I was looking for."
Wagner grew up outside of Osakis where he graduated high school in 2010. He enjoyed hunting, fishing and shooting archery early on, so he knew that going into environmental science would give him a chance to learn about what he loved.
Photo by Anna Haecherl-Smith
Jared Wagner stands in the environmental science lab at Southwest Minnesota State University a few days before his graduation. Wagner will graduate Saturday with a bachelor of science degree in environmental science with an emphasis in natural science and a biology minor, before taking a job with the Upper Sioux Agency as its environmental specialist.
"I've been outdoors my whole life," Wagner said. "I chose environmental science because I wanted to understand the natural world better."
When he was not studying or attending classes, Wagner was active in the Environmental Awareness Club, serving as president for his junior and senior year. The club performs highway and river cleanups, as well as promoting science in schools by attending preschool classes and making slime with the students.
He also volunteered with the Redwood River Monitoring Project for three years. The project focuses on water quality and outreach. Wagner helped teach middle school and high school students how to monitor water quality and promote the environmental science program.
What: SMSU's 46th Commencement
When: 10 a.m. Saturday
Where: SMSU R/A Facility
Commencement speaker: 2002 graduate Christy (Kubat) Brusven
Reception: Will follow commencement on the second floor of the Student Center
Baccalaureate service: 7 p.m. today in the Campus Religious Center.
Of note: Clarence Hightower (1977) will receive the university's first Presidential Award since 1996, and Dr. James Zarzana, English professor, will be honored as this year's Cowan Award winner.
Volunteers with the RRMP also monitor the health of the river twice a year at three sites, including an area before the river enters Marshall, a central location in town, and a site after the river leaves Marshall.
For his senior capstone research project, Wagner studied the stormwater runoff ponds. Wagner compared the newly constructed Minnesota-shaped pond near the Marshall High School to the pond near the Market Street Mall.
"It was a unique opportunity, because you rarely get to have a fresh pond dug right when you need to do a research project," Wagner said. "I've always been interested in wetlands. (Summer 2013) was the first growing season for the new pond, so I was able to see how it developed in its first season."
Wagner was able to examine phytoplankton succession, seasonal algae shifts and compare the biodiversity of a new and old pond.
"It's important to understand because algae are the base of the food chain," Wagner said. "They have to establish themselves right away for the pond to take off and for a community to evolve."
Looking back at his time at SMSU, Wagner said his favorite memories will include going to regionals in Lincoln, Neb. for flag football, playing sand volleyball, and the trips he took with the Environmental Awareness Club and the Biology Club.
Wagner will be graduating Saturday with a bachelor of science degree in environmental science with an emphasis in natural science and a biology minor. When asked what was next for him, Wagner said that he already has had a couple of job offers but has decided to stay close to the area.
"I'm the new environmental specialist for the Upper Sioux Agency," Wagner said.
Wagner will be monitoring water quality at Hawk Creek, which flows into the Minnesota River, and looking for non-point source pollutants. He will also get to perform community outreach and present data to and advise the tribal government.
Wagner isn't wasting any time getting to work either.
"I start next Tuesday," he said.