From Scout to Environmental Engineer: One Student’s Journey to Protecting Water
Morgan David Jones, an incoming freshman at SMU Lyle School of Engineering and one of the most decorated Eagle Scouts in the Boy Scouts of America history, dreams of a career in water conservation.
Morgan David Jones, an incoming freshman at SMU Lyle School of Engineering, dreams of a career in water conservation.
An Austin native, Jones is one of the most decorated scouts in the Boy Scouts of America program and has devoted his pre-college years to environmental conservation, including water safety and purification.
“My work in conservation really led me to major in environmental engineering, and when I learned about SMU Lyle from an alum and investigated the program, I knew Lyle was for me,” he said. “Water is a scarce resource, and I want to work with water in my career as an engineer.”
During his Scouting journey, Morgan has earned 66 merit badges, 9 palms, 7 medals, 5 knots, and 10 Boy Scouts of America (BSA) outdoor and environmental awards, including BSA’s most prestigious conservation award — The BSA Distinguished Conservation Service Award with Silver Honors. Only 178 Scouts in the Boy Scouts’ 112-year history earned this award, which required four research and conservation service projects from four different environmental categories.
(Caption: Pictured from left, Congressman Lloyd Doggett and Morgan)
One of Morgan’s Scout leaders and his wife – who are both SMU Lyle alums – told him about SMU. At the time, Morgan had his sights set on attending college elsewhere, but after researching the programs at SMU Lyle and following a campus visit, he was hooked.
“It was actually a married couple, both Lyle alums, who told me about SMU, and they just loved it. I saw how they both had really good jobs in Austin, and I realized that being able to stay close to home, I can just drive home to go hunting and fishing with my dad.
“It’s a little scary thinking about leaving home and not having my own alone space,” said Jones. “But at the same time, I’m excited, too.”
Morgan credits his father, David, a retired minister and seminary professor, with taking him fishing, hunting, and on nature hikes all his life.
“I think my interest in conservation came from my dad taking me out into nature at a young age. I think otherwise I would have loved just playing video games and staying in my room. But he always pulled me outside to fish, and at first, I didn't like it. Now, I've really come to love fishing as a time for fellowship and having fun and friends.”
Conservation projects became a natural outgrowth of Jones’s Scouting projects. He earned Eagle Scout as a high school freshman and went on to earn the BSA Distinguished Conservation Service Award with Silver Honors and U.S. Congress’ Bronze, Silver, and Gold certificates and Bronze, Silver, and Gold Congressional youth medals.
To achieve these milestones, he undertook four major projects:
For his first project, Morgan constructed six wood duck boxes with the help of his troop that were installed at Camp Mabry.
“Thanks to Morgan for educating folks and sending this out to other scouts and our volunteers,” said Kirby Brown, a Ducks Unlimited Conservation Outreach Biologist, who is an Eagle Scout himself. “With more people undertaking projects like these, the future of wood duck populations is certainly positive.”
In addition to the boxes, Morgan and fellow Scouts built a mulch pad for a picnic table, restored a trail that connects the picnic site with another Eagle Project educational site, and created an educational sign about wood ducks and their habitat. The project required more than 160 service hours from a crew of eight Scouts and 10 adult volunteers to complete.
His second conservation project involved working with the City of Austin’s Watershed Projection Department to inspect more than 1100 storm drains and install more than 350 “No Dumping” emblems on the drains. For his third project, Morgan researched the problem of improperly disposed of fishing line along Austin ponds and lakes and then developed a recycling program for the discarded plastic lines, which are harmful for the environment and wildlife.
For his last major project last fall, he and his troop installed a 400-gallon water tank and built two 4 x 8 foot pollinator flower beds filled with nutrient-rich top soil at a summer camp and retreat center in the Texas Hill Country near Wimberley. They also planted 20 deer-resistant pollinator plants, installed "soaker hoses" and an innovative deer fence made out of 40 lb. fishing line attached to nine T-posts, and supplied "butterfly rocks" where butterflies can drink and rest.
"What is truly remarkable about Morgan is that he initiated, designed, and completed four harder than Eagle Conservation Projects during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said his Scoutmaster, Paul Slutes. “Morgan is an inspiration to every Scout and adult in our Troop."
Morgan accomplished the Scouting conservation projects while maintaining outstanding grades in high school – he is a member of the National Honor Society – and playing varsity soccer and baseball. He also earned a $5,000 Capitol Area Council Lockhart Eagle Scholarship.
As a talented soccer player at Concordia High School in Austin, he was named a Spectrum 1 Texas News Scholar Athlete of the Month his senior year, earning a $1,000 scholarship for college. He hopes to continue playing soccer at SMU through intramural sports and to discover new passions along the way.
“I also like the liberal arts program at SMU,” said Jones. “Some schools are just math and science. I want to branch out and see more than just that.”
About the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering
SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering, founded in 1925, is one of the oldest engineering schools in the Southwest. The school offers twelve undergraduate and 29 graduate programs, including master’s and doctoral degrees, in the departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Computer Science; Electrical and Computer Engineering; Mechanical Engineering and Operations Research and Engineering Management.
SMU is the nationally ranked global research university in the dynamic city of Dallas. SMU’s alumni, faculty and nearly 12,000 students in eight degree-granting schools demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit as they lead change in their professions, community and the world.