Keep Oklahoma Beautiful Recognizes Volunteer and University for Blue Thumb Activities

Beth Landon, Oklahoma City University laboratory technician (left), and Kim Shaw, Blue Thumb education coordinator, prepare to lead a youth activity at a Blue Thumb workshop for high school students. Beth’s success in incorporating OCC’s Blue Thumb Program into OCU Biology Lab activities with students resulted in an Environmental Excellence award from Keep Oklahoma Beautiful.

The Keep Oklahoma Beautiful program presented longtime Blue Thumb volunteer Beth Landon and the Biology Department of Oklahoma City University (OCU) with an “Environmental Excellence” award recently. The award was presented for the Collegiate Effort, Institution Driven, category at the program’s 21st Annual Environmental Excellence Celebration on Nov. 10 in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma Conservation Commission staff members Kim Shaw, Blue Thumb Program education coordinator, and Cheryl Cheadle, Blue Thumb state coordinator nominated Landon and OCU for the award.

Landon, a biology laboratory technician at OCU since 2004, has been a Blue Thumb volunteer since 2001. In 2005 she began involving OCU students in Blue Thumb activities, including chemical monitoring, benthic* macroinvertebrate** collections, macroinvertebrate sampling, fish collections, habitat assessments, and quality assurance sessions.  Through OCU’s Service/Learning Program, many students, whether they were science majors or not, got the chance to participate in Blue Thumb.  

In addition to stream monitoring, Oklahoma City University has used the Blue Thumb Program to expand a stewardship ethic to people beyond the students at OCU.  A few of the events and activities that developed through the partnership of OCU and Blue Thumb are:

  • Sponsorship and hosting of the 2010 Blue Thumb Biennial Volunteer Conference
  • Initiating and hosting PLAYHARD workshops for Blue Thumb high school teachers and students in 2010 and 2011.
  • Hosting numerous benthic macroinvertebrate sampling and quality assurance sessions in central Oklahoma
  • Creating and presenting posters and visual presentations about OCU students and other volunteers engaged in Blue Thumb efforts including Service/Learning, field work, and data interpretation and analysis

“In a nutshell, Beth and Oklahoma City University have played a large role in opening students’ eyes to biology, ecology, and stewardship,” Cheadle said.

“Beth has created a Blue Thumb Service/Learning course at OCU in which biology majors and non-majors have gotten involved,” said Shaw, who is also serves as Blue Thumb volunteer coordinator for central Oklahoma.  “This Service/Learning course has taken people out into the creeks who might not have otherwise gotten out there.”  Shaw added that Landon is a dedicated volunteer who has worked on five different streams in the Oklahoma City area.

“Beth took the Blue Thumb Program and made science exciting and approachable,” Cheadle said. “Beth takes more of a leadership role with students than probably any other volunteer we work with.”  

(*Benthic: Relating to the bottom of a sea or lake or to the organisms that live there.
**Macroinvertebrate: A small invertebrate animal (animal without a backbone) large enough to be seen without magnification.)