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More Than $100,000 Awarded for Freshwater Research
More Than $100,000 Awarded for Freshwater Research

April 22, 2016

Susquehanna University announced more than $100,000 in awards to seven different organizations to support collaborative freshwater research.

The funds are made possible through the university's $2.25 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, which was awarded to Susquehanna in 2014 to support the university's Freshwater Research Initiative. Additionally, the grant allows Susquehanna to financially support like-minded partner organizations whose work is also focused on the health of the river.

"Progress reports continue to come in from the organizations we funded last year," said Jonathan Niles, director of Susquehanna's Freshwater Research Initiative. "It has been rewarding to be able to fund these research partnerships in order to create a greater impact from the work we are all doing."

This year's recipients are:

  • Ty Wagner, Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Pennsylvania State University, $19,891, to investigate the role of groundwater as a point source of emerging contaminants to smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River basin, in collaboration with U.S. Geological Survey
  • George Merovich, Department of Environmental Science, Juniata College, $18,070, to investigate the link between spatiotemporal patterns in EDC concentrations to storm discharge and YOY SMB health in the upper Juniata River basin
  • Shannon White, Ph.D. student, Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Pennsylvania State University, $17,500, to study phenotype-specific gene expression in brook trout in the Loyalsock Creek watershed
  • Melinda Daniels and Valerie Ouellet, Stroud Water Research Center, $15,085, to investigate spatio-temporal dynamics of thermal refugia in streams and its consequences for brook and brown trout interactions
  • Jason Detar, state Fish and Boat Commission, Fisheries Management Division Area 3, Bellefonte, Pa., $10,545, for a wild trout initiative
  • Kris Kuhn, state Fish and Boat Commission, Fisheries Management Division Area 7, Newville, Pa., $10,545, for a smallmouth bass initiative
  • Shawn Rummel, Trout Unlimited, $10,000, for an assessment of road culverts as passage barriers to wild and stocked trout in Pennsylvania headwater streams

This is the second round of awards made possible by the Mellon grant. Last year, $70,000 was awarded to five different organizations to support freshwater research.

Interim results from those projects are in, Niles said, as investigators continue their research into stream-crossing structures, genetic structure of smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River, genetic structure of brook trout in the Loyalsock Creek watershed, establishing long-term monitoring and modeling of temperatures in Pennsylvanian headwater streams, assessment of streamside salamander communities in headwater streams of the Loyalsock Creek watershed, and the effects of sedimentation from natural gas development on stream ecosystems.

A portion of the $2.25 million Mellon grant was used to create Susquehanna's Freshwater Research Initiative Laboratory, which opened in June 2015.

Ongoing Student Research

  • There are currently more than 20 Susquehanna students working on research projects in conjunction with their professors. Projects include:
  • Continuing work on the state's Unassessed Waters Initiative. Since 2010, Niles and FRI program manager Mike Bilger and their students have surveyed more than 500 of the 4,000 stream segments assessed. Niles said they hope to sample 75 more streams this summer.
  • Investigation into the effectiveness of riparian restoration. Last summer, Bilger, Niles and their students sampled fish, aquatic insects and water quality at seven pre-construction stream sites. They will sample those sites again post-construction, in addition to another six pre-construction sites. All of this is in an effort to determine if riparian restoration is biologically effective.
  • Stream sites throughout the Marcellus shale to analyze genetic structures of brook trout that live within areas of natural gas development
  • Analysis of mercury levels in brook trout, aquatic insects, algae and crayfish across areas where there has been natural gas development
  • Investigation into young-of-year smallmouth bass health in the Susquehanna River and tributaries. Bilger and Niles, along with colleagues Jack Holt, professor of biology, and Ahmed Lachhab, professor of earth and environmental sciences, will sample habitat, flow, water quality, algae, aquatic insects and fish to investigate how the health of smallmouth bass may be related to environmental factors.

What's Next?