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SD1 News Flash

Posted on: October 6, 2021

Staff Spotlight: Matt Wooten, Environmental Program Manager

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Meet Matt Wooten, SD1’s Environmental Program Manager. Matt grew up along the Ohio River in Ashland, Ky., and studied at Marshall University in Huntington, WV. Since then, he’s dedicated his entire career to the Ohio River and its tributaries. 

Matt, why did you choose to work at SD1?

I came to SD1 in 2006 to help build a stream monitoring program, which involved working with individuals to look at things like local water quality, biology and habitats to inform SD1 decisions.

How would you describe your current role?

My current job is in SD1’s engineer planning department. I take what we've learned from that monitoring program over the past 15 years and use it to improve the region's storm water management program.  

For example, we have a bad erosion problem in Northern Kentucky that affects local water quality and threatens our infrastructure. My job is to minimize those erosive forces through better storm water management and stabilizing features so that in the future, we're not dealing with the same problem.  

What is the most challenging part of your role?

Without any doubt, it's integrating the research side of things with the applied side, and then implementing it. It can be challenging to help practitioners understand that we've studied our system for a long time and know how to remedy things if we change our methods.  

Some designs and approaches are accepted when it comes to storm water management because the designers have been doing the same thing for a long time, so when someone introduces a new way of doing things, people have a hard time adjusting. Still, we work with them, walk them through the process, and we're beginning to move that needle in the other direction.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

The most rewarding part is when people actually see the changes. A lot of times we're talking theory, but when you begin to put stuff into practice, and people see that they're not having to go fix things anymore because we're doing it differently, they begin to embrace the work.

Another part that's rewarding to me is when other organizations or utilities reach out to us. I get the opportunity to give presentations to different professional societies and things of that nature. So it's pretty rewarding when you get asked by other states and countries to come and talk about how you're doing it here in little Northern Kentucky.  

Why is working with the environmental education community so important to you?

Training the upcoming scientist is pivotal in making sure we continue this process. It is truly rewarding to see a switch go off in some of these 18-year old students that have never done anything like this before. As they grow and build that scientific base, they begin to look at the world around them and understand. You can see their wheels turn. Training the next generation is one of the most important parts of this effort.

What do you like to do outside of SD1?

I like spending time with the family. I’m an outdoorsman- I like to hunt, fish and hike. I’m an avid runner, I like to get out and pound the pavement; it helps me clear my head and stay in shape. I also like to play guitar and sing, but I don't do either of them very well.

What is your favorite thing about working at SD1?

We have a good group of people here, so aside from the folks I work with, my favorite thing is the opportunity to improve the region and community. That's the reason I do what I do. I'm a scientist, and I'm a data-based guy. I want to make decisions that are based on data. It's taken a while for us to get there, but we have the data now. One of the things I like about working here is we can take the science and apply it to improve things, help people, and be good stewards of the community.

Learn more about Matt in the latest edition of SD1 Staff Spotlight.

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