Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Meet Morgan Hopkins: UF/IFAS Miami-Dade’s Newest Water Expert

UF/IFAS Miami-Dade filled their long-vacant Florida Yards and Neighborhoods (FYN) Agent position this month. The hire? Morgan Hopkins, a water reuse and conservation expert from Oklahoma.

Having just completed her master’s work this summer, Ms. Hopkins now takes center stage with Miami-Dade’s Urban Conservation Unit, an outfit that administers what is possibly the best funded urban landscape irrigation rebate program in the state, in the most populous county in Florida.

Big personalities take on big tasks in high-profile settings. IrriGator recently interviewed FYN Agent Morgan Hopkins to learn more about her background and her big plans for water in Miami-Dade.

What is your background in water and/or conservation?

I hail from Oklahoma. The Great Plains. While I was there I attended Oklahoma State University (OSU). My undergrad focused on Environmental Science Policy. That’s where I received my formal education on conservation and the environment. But I really delved into water conservation during my master’s program in the OSU Horticulture Department. I was on a grant with Oklahoma City to create and promote a water conservation program. We were coming into our fourth year of drought and my role as the graduate research assistant was to do public education while also continuing my research in reclaimed water use in golf course irrigation and public acceptance of reclaimed water use in Oklahoma. 

Learning the ropes: Morgan Hopkins at a recent landscape irrigation evaluation
What are some of Oklahoma’s current water challenges?

Water is a very contentious subject in Oklahoma, especially when we’re in drought. We’re known for having a drier climate. Everyone knows about the dust bowl from the 1930s. We also experienced a big drought in the 1950s. Oklahoma is based largely on oil production and agriculture so water is very important for both those industries. So when we go without it our economy and people feel the impact.

What is it about Extension that interests you?

I worked with Oklahoma’s Extension through my master’s research and found out how Extension helps the community. I really enjoy that their sole purpose is to help people – to educate and serve the community in a way that is research backed but also backed by counties and business and agriculture. I enjoy tying in the academic research side with the public outreach and working with people.

#UFIFASMIAMIDADEUCU2015: Morgan Hopkins and Jesus Lomeli
What do you think a successful water program looks like in the diverse, populous context of Miami-Dade County?

I think a successful water program would be one that everyone knows about regardless of your economic or social status; it’s something that serves everyone. That would be the basis to me: a program that everyone is aware of and everyone feels is actually benefiting their community as well as the environment. 

Follow Miami-Dade FYN Agent Morgan Hopkins on twitter as she continues with her important water work in South Florida.

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