Adjunct Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Robert De Otte

Robert DeOtte

Dr. Robert DeOtte is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) and an adjunct faculty member of the Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department at Texas A&M University. He has collaborated his research efforts with other members of the department including Drs. John Sweeten, Brent Auvermann, and Ken Casey.

In 2010 Drs. DeOtte, Auvermann, and Casey received a $470,000 NSF Major Research Instrumentation grant directed at air quality research.  Dr. DeOtte coupled the particle imaging velocimeter (PIV) and associated instrumentation with his dispersion wind tunnel while Drs. Casey and Auvermann use meteorological towers and instrumentation for field measurements in feedyards and dairies.  Drs. Casey and DeOtte have collaborated on several water conservation projects funded by the USDA ARS Ogallala Aquifer Project.  They have endeavored to measure biologic activity in retention pond waters at feedyards and are currently working with Dr. Eric Butler, a new faculty member at West Texas A&M University, to attempt to remove nutrients from the runoff at feed yards.

Dr. DeOtte has had significant experience working with the livestock industries on developing responses to highly contagious diseases of beef cattle, dairy cattle, and swine.  His work has been funded from the Department of Homeland Security and USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service cooperative agreements and grants.  He and his students have inventoried all the feedyards and landfills in the five state area of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma. As a result of that study, planners now know that there is not sufficient rendering and landfill capacity to dispose of all the carcasses that would be generated if the United States responded to a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak by trying to euthanize all the infected and exposed animals.  As a consequence USDA is revising their response strategies.  Along those lines Dr. DeOtte and Dr. Tim Goldsmith, a veterinarian at the University of Minnesota, have worked with meat packers to engage them in response to infectious animal diseases.

Dr. DeOtte and Dr. Ty Lawrence, a meat scientist at West Texas A&M University, have worked with graduate and undergraduate students to reduce the amount of water used in meat packing plants without compromising food safety.  Their work has demonstrated that in-plant water use for some processes can be reduced by at least fifty percent.

A model of a beef cattle head used as part of water conservation in packing plants. Green was used as the base because it is at the opposite end of the light spectrum from red (blood).

A model of a beef cattle head used as part of water conservation in packing plants. Green was used as the base because it is at the opposite end of the light spectrum from red (blood).

Dr. DeOtte, working with WTAMU graduate students and other faculty, has developed a new perspective on the amount of water remaining in the Ogallala Aquifer.  Historically the remaining water was inventoried by using measurements of water levels in wells at the end of January or beginning of February and then interpolating between wells to determine how much saturated thickness remains.  The team working with Dr. DeOtte has determined that there are likely mounds of water between the wells which have not been included in the inventory.

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