Taking a Longstanding Commitment to the Next Level

Susquehanna University’s faculty and students have a long history of both studying and enjoying the majestic river that glides past Selinsgrove on its way to providing half the freshwater for the Chesapeake Bay—and drinking water for more than six million people.

But with last year’s award of a three-year, $2.25-million grant from the prestigious Richard King Mellon Foundation, the university is exponentially ramping up its focus on the “river of long reach” from which it takes its name. Thanks to the grant, the university’s FRI and its new Freshwater Research Laboratory are becoming the hub for a broad coalition of 34 academic institutions, government agencies and nonprofit groups dedicated to studying and improving the health of this critically important river.

“We are thrilled to have this partnership with the R. K. Mellon Foundation,” says Valerie Martin, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. “At the individual faculty level, we’ve been doing freshwater research for a long time.

“But now we’ve been able to take that commitment to a much higher level. The grant enables us to collaborate with other academic institutions, government agencies and nonprofit organizations and to engage even more of our students in a rich collaboration across the sciences—biology, chemistry, ecology, and earth and environmental sciences—as we share information and, ultimately, positively impact the river and Chesapeake Bay.”

Adds Niles: “Our goal is to work cooperatively with our FRI partners to arrive at solutions that will help clean up the Susquehanna and preserve it. And then inform citizens about the science involved so that they can persuade legislators to enact effective policies to ensure a healthy river and bay."

The freshwater research lab that opened this year at Susquehanna is unmatched in both size and scope anywhere in the river basin. Located in a 7,500-square-foot converted dairy barn along Sassafras Street just west of the athletic fields, the lab is utilized by faculty and students from both Susquehanna and partner academic institutions. Its equipment includes

  • Two $40,000 highly sophisticated devices for analyzing water chemistries, and 
  • More than a dozen 300- to 350-gallon tanks for fish and sedimentation studies.

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