Clarence Watson, associate director of the statewide Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station system, has assumed the duties of chair for the Southern Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors.

The organization represents the agricultural experiment stations in the 13 southeastern states plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

“Our main purpose is to further scientific inquiry into those issues and concerns of importance to state residents and the region, as directed by our land-grant mission under state and federal law,” Watson said.

To that end, the association works to encourage collaboration among agricultural scientists in the region, as well as inform those who fund agricultural research about priorities, impacts and status of projects.

“Think of it as an expansion and enhancement of our land-grant research activities in each state, which have the ultimate goal of improving the quality of life for residents,” he said.

Watson said the hallmark of experiment station research is “people-centered practicality,” be it finding ways to improve economic and environmental aspects of crop production to developing agribusiness models that account for changes in the global economy, to burgeoning fields such as determining how Oklahoma can best take advantage of the coming biobased economy.

The statewide Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station agency is part of Oklahoma State University’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. The OAES system is comprised of 17 research stations located across Oklahoma, with targeted research initiatives being conducted by more than 140 scientists and 25 multi-disciplinary teams. The experiment station directs and manages approximately 40 percent of OSU’s total research projects.

“Many people hear the word ‘agriculture’ and conjure up very traditional images; the truth is, agriculture today directly and indirectly affects urban residents as much as those who live in rural areas,” Watson said. “Agriculture is a multi-billion-dollar segment of the state economy, and includes not just the production of food and fiber, but energy, environmental practices of organizations and individuals alike, community development, timber, water use and protection, healthcare infrastructure and pharmaceuticals; the list goes on and on.”

Watson, who has served as OAES associate director since April 2006, provides leadership for the planning and development of statewide research projects, develops and manages state and federal grants and contracts, and works with state commodity groups, legislators, government agencies, community leaders and university officials to ensure OAES research thrusts are addressing issues of importance to Oklahoma.

He also serves as director of the Sun Grant Initiative’s South-Central Region, headquartered at OSU. The Sun Grant Initiative is a national program established to create new solutions for America's energy needs and to revitalize rural communities by working with land-grant universities and their federal and state laboratory partners on research, education and extension programs.

Prior to joining the OSU faculty, Watson served in several important leadership roles for the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, including service as associate director.

He is a member of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Phi Kappa Phi, Gamma Sigma Delta, Sigma Xi and Southern Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors.

Watson earned his doctoral degree in crop science from Oregon State University in 1976 and his master’s and bachelor’s degrees in agronomy from New Mexico State University in 1974 and 1972, respectively.