April 06, 2015
Susquehanna University announced $70,000 in awards to five 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.
The grant was awarded to Susquehanna in May 2014 to support the university's Freshwater Research Initiative, which seeks to further understand the ecological issues impacting the Susquehanna River and its tributaries.
Additionally, the grant allows Susquehanna to financially support like-minded partner organizations whose work is also focused on the health of the river.
"This is a funding opportunity that is typically only available through state government agencies or major research universities," said Jonathan Niles, director of Susquehanna's Freshwater Research Initiative. "Susquehanna University appreciates the opportunity to create these research partnerships and spread the impact of support this very important work we are all doing."
This year's inaugural recipients are:
- Shawn Rummel, Trout Unlimited, $19,000, to evaluate cold-water habitat fragmentation caused by inadequate stream-crossing structures in collaboration with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources - Bureau of Forestry, Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association, Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies and local municipalities.
- Megan Kepler Schall, Penn State University, $13,500, to investigate the genetic population structure of smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River basin in collaboration with the state Fish and Boat Commission, state Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey and Susquehanna University.
- Ty Wagner, Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Penn State University, $12,500, to study the population genetic structure of brook trout in the Loyalsock Creek watershed in collaboration with the state Fish and Boat Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association and Susquehanna University.
- Molly Mehling and Ryan Utz, Chatham University, $9,800, to establish a regional approach to long-term monitoring and modeling of temperatures in Pennsylvanian headwater streams in collaboration with Susquehanna University.
- Peter Petokas, Lycoming College, $7,900, to conduct a baseline assessment of streamside salamander communities in headwater streams of the Loyalsock Creek watershed.
- Matt McTammany, Bucknell University, $7,300, to study the effects of sedimentation from natural gas development on stream ecosystem processes in collaboration with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, Lycoming College and Lock Haven University.
In 2011, the Susquehanna River was named the most endangered in the nation by the nonprofit group American Rivers. Communities and businesses depend on the river for commerce, hydropower generation, and recreational fishing and boating.
Susquehanna University faculty and students continue to work on the university's Freshwater Research Initiative. Projects currently underway include:
- Susquehanna River: Investigation of rusty crayfish density and diet; long-term data collection of algae and other aquatic life; detailed studies of the red-backed salamander; investigation of riparian ground spider communities as a potential source for mercury mobilization between food-chains
- Loyalsock Creek, Lycoming County: Long-term data collection of trout populations, other aquatic life and water quality
- Faylor Lake, Snyder County: Use of ground-penetrating radar to assess sediment load
- Surveys of more than 150 streams as part of the statewide Fish and Boat Commission's Unassessed Waters Initiative
Part of the $2.25 million Richard King Mellon Foundation grant is being used to create Susquehanna's Freshwater Research Initiative Laboratory, slated to open later this spring.
The center, located in a renovated dairy barn just beyond Susquehanna's athletic fields on Sassafras Street, Selinsgrove, will serve as a home for the research initiative.
"The Freshwater Research Initiative has had a productive first 10 months of activity, and we're delighted to welcome these new research partners to our team," Niles said. "The data we're accumulating will be a rich resource to help inform decisions that affect environmental and economic policy, as well as communities and individuals for whom the health of the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay is an ongoing concern."