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Save the Planet

Three Individuals—a Professor/Priest, Mammalogist and Wild Care Specialist—Discuss Their Very Different Work

 Jim F. Chamberlain, Ph.D.

Co-Director for Education and Outreach, OU WaTER Center, and Catholic Priest

“My work in development is informed and inspired by the Gospel love of Jesus Christ for the down-trodden, while my intellectual faith is buoyed by Catholic social teaching, which includes ‘solidarity with the poor’ as one of its main tenets.”

Jim F. Chamberlain, who holds a doctorate in environmental engineering and earth science, began traveling to developing countries after attending an Engineering Without Borders conference. He traveled to El Salvador with the EWB chapter to work on several water projects involving building pipelines to carry water to very poor villages along the southern Pacific coast.

Chamberlain, also a Catholic priest, says has his OU connection has helped open up doors for collaborations and experience in developing nations, so that he has been able to take his church youth group on mission trips to Haiti, Puerto Rico and Jamaica.

Chamberlain has done research on the removal of excess fluoride from drinking water in Ethiopia and helped battle arsenic in Cambodia’s water supply. He also has conducted surveys of water, sanitation and hygiene stations to help prioritize schools in Ethiopia that needed help first. He taught an undergraduate course in Uganda in which students would participate in a range of projects ranging from rainwater catchments and sanitation facilities to designing solar-powered pumping stations. Always working with local technicians, these projects became a learning experience for both the students and the locals.

In Uganda, he helped find funding to install solar panels to provide electricity for a maternity ward in Gulu and helped repair a water well at Atiak that provided clean water for dozens of people daily.

Chamberlain advises readers who are concerned about their planet’s future to strive to create an ethic of sustainability regarding the material things that they use and consume and to keep informed about areas experiencing water stress. Many of the migrations across the world, he notes, are due to people seeking better resources, including water.

The WaTER Center at OU also offers periodic speakers and programs that offer education and awareness through a fall symposium and other events. Learn more at ou.edu/coe/centers/water

Brandi Coyner, Ph.D.

Curatorial Associate at the Sam Noble Museum

“Worldwide, more than 1,400 bat species provide important ecosystem services. Insectivorous species consume large amounts of insects each night, reducing agricultural and human pests.”

Brandi Coyner, who holds a bachelor’s and a doctoral degree in zoology, originally wanted to pursue medical school, took a different career path after taking a summer course in field mammalogy at OU’s Biological Station, deciding, instead, to study wild mammals—specifically, bats.

With more than 1,400 bat species worldwide, this flying mammal provides important ecosystem services, she notes. Insectivorous species consume large amounts of insects each night, reducing agricultural and human pests, while some 300 species of fruit depend on bats for pollination. These bats disperse the seeds of the fruits they consume, and their guano is used as fertilizer.

Coyner’s current research focuses on Oklahoma’s Perimyotis subflavus, also known as the Tri-Colored Bat. Found throughout the eastern United States and adjacent Canada and Mexico, the bat was petitioned to be added to the federal endangered species list in 2016. Along with several colleagues, Coyner is studying the local prevalence of a fungus, known as white-nose syndrome that's been killing bats by the millions in the northeastern United States. The fungus also afflicts about a dozen other species of North American bats and is carried by numerous others.

To help bats thrive, Coyner suggests simply leaving their current habitats alone, as disturbing and damaging caves can create an irreversible impact. Homeowners who wish to attract bats may wish to research how to install and maintain a bat house. 

While it’s worth noting that, although rare, bats can and do carry some deadly diseases, Coyner advises individuals to leave them alone and, if one appears sick or injured, to contact WildCare in Noble or the local animal control.

Rondi M. Large, Founding Volunteer Director, WildCare

“Be an advocate for the retention of natural spaces. Wildlife will thrive, and we will be able to enjoy them for generations if we protect the places they need to live. Be a friend to wildlife. Drive the speed limit and keep an eye out for wildlife. And if you can, make your yard a wildlife sanctuary by providing fresh clean water for wild animals year ‘round.”

Rondi Large is one of three founding volunteer directors of WildCare in Noble; the other two are O.T. Sanders and Nancy Harrington, D.V.M. WildCare was officially incorporated in 1994, and became approved as a tax-exempt nonprofit in 1995. However, the three had been actively rehabilitating wildlife since 1984. The organization started in Rondi and O.T.’s home and moved to the Golden Family Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center in June 2015.

The mission of the WildCare Foundation is to provide people a place to bring native injured, orphaned or ill wildlife struggling to survive, with the goal of releasing healthy individuals back into the wild. WildCare is the oldest and largest wildlife rehabilitation center in Oklahoma and one of the 10 largest facilities in the country. Since its beginning, WildCare has admitted and provided care for over 100,000 sick, injured and orphaned native wild animals. During that time, the number of animals coming into the facility has grown from just a few animals a year to nearly 7,000 annually.

Most of its facility and operating costs relate to their primary goal of providing medical evaluation, surgery and ongoing medical care if needed, species-specific nutrition and shelter. WildCare’s secondary mission is to help people understand the wildlife they encounter and to promote harmonious coexistence, whenever possible. Its staff also help people determine whether an animal, in fact, needs rescuing. For example, people often want to rescue fawns without knowing that mother deer leave their babies safely camouflaged in overgrowth while they graze during the day, returning periodically to nurse their fawns.

Rescued animals may be brought to the facility, located at 7601 84th St., in Noble, or taken to one of their drop-off locations—the Oklahoma City Animal Welfare or the Norman Animal Shelter.

Find out ways you can help by contacting them at 872.9338 or WildcareOklahoma.org.

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