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Faculty and students are invested in making the Susquehanna River a cleaner waterway

In the spring of 2014, Susquehanna University secured a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation for $2.25 million. The money has been used to build a dedicated laboratory and state-of-the-art equipment for river research. Awards of more than $170,000 have been given to partner institutions with funds made possible by the Mellon grant.

And most importantly, our faculty and students are working collaboratively with a network of nonprofit groups, government agencies and other academic institutions within the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay watersheds to ensure broad and compelling long-term impacts.

$2.25

million dollar initial grant

700+

streams assessed in Pa. since 2010

8

different organizations receiving funds so far

Since 2010, a group of Susquehanna students and faculty, led by Jonathan Niles, have worked with various government agencies and private landowners to survey more than 700 of the 6,000 stream segments assessed under the state's Unassessed Waters Initiative.

The team's goal is to find wild brook trout in the streams and help the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and the Department of Environmental Protection determine usage and protections for the waterways.

More than half of 2015's 104 surveyed streams had wild trout, which can only live in pristine, cool water free of excess sedimentation and sunlight. The presence of wild trout in these previously unassessed streams means their protection becomes a priority, which helps influence overall water and land usage in the area surrounding the stream.

If you would like to allow Susquehanna's team access to your land and streams, email us at niles@susqu.edu.

Our current research focuses on the health and life cycle of smallmouth bass and initial findings are that many of the fish are not reaching adulthood. The question is, why?

The simple answer is we don't know, but the Susquehanna team is looking at temperature increases, increases in sedimentation, a virus, a parasite, or some other concern.

Faculty and staff members in the biology, chemistry and earth and environmental sciences departments at Susquehanna—Jonathan Niles, Jack Holt, Carlos Iudica, Ahmed Lachhab and Lou Ann Tom—are also working with stakeholder groups and colleagues from partnering institutions in the Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies (SRHCES). The SRHCES is composed of Susquehanna, Bucknell, Bloomsburg and Lock Haven universities, and King's and Lycoming colleges. Their work includes a variety of research projects focused on water quality and aquatic life, which ultimately affect the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Project: Investigation of genetic population structure of smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River basin.

This study is being conducted with PhD Student Megan Kepler Schall at Penn State University. The objective of this research is to evaluate genetic population structure and genetic diversity of smallmouth bass populations in the Susquehanna River basin to provide insight for both fisheries and fish health management. During summer 2015 students and staff from the FRI collected fish data and tissue samples from several sites along the Susquehanna River to assist with this project. SU students then assisted Megan with genetics analysis throughout the summer.

Collaborators: Penn State University, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Susquehanna River Basin Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Project: Movement dynamics of Susquehanna smallmouth bass Micropterus dolomieu: implications for disease and fisheries management

This study is being conducted with Ph.D. student Megan Kepler Schall at Penn State University. The overall objective of this study is to quantify seasonal movement and thermal habitat use of smallmouth bass in the West Branch Susquehanna River. Smallmouth bass in the West Branch Susquehanna River near Williamsport were implanted with radio tags and tracked over the last year for movement within the system. During summer and fall 2014 staff from the FRI assisted with this project.

Collaborators: Penn State University, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Susquehanna River Basin Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Project: Rusty Crayfish and Smallmouth Bass in the River: who is eating whom?

This project funded by Pennsylvania SeaGrant study seeks to determine what the invasive Rusty Crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) is eating in the Susquehanna River. We are also investigating whether they are contributing to the decline of Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu) in the Susquehanna directly by the consumption of bass eggs, or indirectly by the consumption of bass prey. Finally we are determining crayfish density in the river and its tributaries.

Collaborators: Kings College, Bucknell University, Boston University            

Loyalsock Creek Watershed

We are conducting collaborative aquatic research at a system of long-term research sites in headwater streams in Loyalsock Creek (a tributary to the West Branch Susquehanna River) utilizing public and privately owned sites. We are studying a variety of biota at these sites across a larger landscape framework.

Project name: Long-term brook trout population assessment of Loyalsock Creek watershed Collaborators: U.S. Geological Survey

Project name: Long term Benthic Macroinvertebrate sampling of Loyalsock Creek Collaborators: U.S. Geological Survey

Project name: Evaluation of coldwater habitat fragmentation cause by inadequate stream crossing structures Collaborators: Trout Unlimited, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Project name: Population genetic structure of brook trout in the Loyalsock Creek watershed. Collaborators: Penn State University, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Project name: Can plasticity protect populations from rapid environmental fluctuation?
Collaborators: Penn State University; Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; U.S. Geological Survey; Leetown Science Center, WV
Watch video

Project name: A Baseline Assessment of Streamside Salamander Communities in Headwater Streams of the Loyalsock Creek Watershed. Collaborators: Lycoming College

Project name: Long-term monitoring and modeling of temperatures in Pennsylvanian headwater streams: a regional comparative approach. Collaborators: Chatham University

Penns Creek Watershed

This project seeks to describe the selected aquatic communities of five freestone head water streams and their watersheds. Data is being collected on aquatic algal and macroinvertebrate communities, water quality, and stream flow characteristics.

Susquehanna River studies

Long term data on water quality, algal communities and benthic macroinvertebrates has been collected across the mainstem Susquehanna River at a transect near Shamokin Dam since 2009. The overall purpose of the monitoring program was to establish baseline conditions using algal and benthic invertebrate communities to assess the state of the riverine ecosystem and determine the trajectory of future changes. The upper main stem of the Susquehanna River is formed by the confluence of the West and North Branches, each of which is chemically and physically distinctive.

Fisheries Projects

2016

Presentations

2015

Presentations

Posters

2014

Posters

Presentations

Aquatic Insect Projects

2015

Presentations

Posters

2014

Papers

Posters

 

Algae Projects

2015

Posters

2014

Posters

Presentations

Water Quality Projects

2015

Posters

2014

Papers

Posters

Hydrology Projects

2015

Papers

2014

Posters

Amphibian Projects

For more information, check out our website about the red-backed salamander.

2016

Posters

2015

Presentations

Posters

Jonathan M. Niles, Ph.D.

Department: Dean of Arts and Sciences
Director of the Mellon Grant Program

Emailniles@susqu.edu
Phone570-372-4707

Michael Bilger

Department: Dean of Arts and Sciences
Aquatic Ecology Research Scientist

Emailbilgerm@susqu.edu
Phone570-372-4722

Carlos Alberto Iudica, Ph.D.

Department: Biology
Associate Professor of Biology

Emailcasaiud@susqu.edu
Phone570-372-4208

Ahmed Lachhab, Ph.D.

Department: Earth & Environmental Sciences
Associate Professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences

Emaillachhab@susqu.edu
Phone570-372-4215

Jack Russell Holt, Ph.D.

Department: Biology
Professor of Biology

Emailholt@susqu.edu
Phone570-372-4205

Dan Ressler, Ph.D.

Department: Earth & Environmental Sciences
Associate Professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences

Emailresslerd@susqu.edu
Phone570-372-4216

Kathy Straub, Ph.D.

Department: Earth & Environmental Sciences
Professor Earth & Environmental Science

Emailstraubk@susqu.edu
Phone570-372-4318

Lou Ann Tom, Ph.D.

Department: Chemistry
Associate Professor of Chemistry

Emailtoml@susqu.edu
Phone570-372-4540

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Biology

You'll get the skills and experiences to give you the confidence to pursue your own projects and research, while also working within teams to push science to new heights. 

Ecology

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Earth & Environmental Sciences

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Chemistry

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Environmental Studies

As environmental studies major, you'll explore the environment holistically.

Contact Us

Freshwater Research Initiative

514 University Ave.

Selinsgrove, PA 17870

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Freshwater Research Laboratory

1075 W. Sassafras Street

Selinsgrove, PA 17870

Location

Phone & Email

570-372-4707

niles@susqu.edu

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