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Making a difference from the headwaters to the Chesapeake Bay
The Freshwater Research Initiative at Susquehanna University was founded in 2014 through a generous gift from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. Our mission is to monitor, restore and protect the ecological health of Pennsylvania's waters.
Providing over half of the fresh water to the Chesapeake Bay, the Susquehanna River watershed plays a critical role in the health of the bay. Our research and monitoring takes us from the headwaters to the main stem of the Susquehanna,—collecting data on fish, macroinvertebrates, water chemistry and sediment. Our goal is to better understand how riparian ecosystems respond to both natural and human-induced stressors, and how these systems rebound when restoration projects are implemented.
We collaborate with more than 30 organizations—nonprofit groups, government agencies and other academic institutions—providing us with a web of connections across the watershed and into the Chesapeake Bay.
Our work with students provides them with the hands-on skills and training to succeed as scientists, policymakers and conservation professionals.
The tabs below provide more information on our ongoing work.
Less than 10 percent of Pennsylvania's streams have been systematically surveyed for the presence of wild brook trout.
If brook trout are identified in a stream, their protection becomes a priority, which influences the designated water and land usage in the area surrounding the stream.
Since 2010, Jon Niles and the Susquehanna team have surveyed approximately 750 of the 6,000 stream segments in the PA Fish and Boat Commission's Unassessed Waters Initiative.
Trout have been found in 47 percent of the streams surveyed. Wild trout can only live in pristine, cool water that is free of excess sedimentation and sunlight.
More than 180 new streams have been added to the PA Wild Trout Waters list because of Susquehanna's work, giving these streams permanent protection.
With so many opportunities for stream restoration in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, how should we decide which projects will make the biggest improvements in water quality and stream health?
Chesapeake Conservancy's precision conservation mapping technique pinpoints the most effective land parcels to restore. Restoration techniques include riparian buffer plantings, stream stabilization and livestock fencing.
Our Freshwater Research lab houses the Chesapeake Conservancy's Susquehanna technical coordinator, Adrienne Gemberling. Gemberling collaborates with FRI staff and Susquehanna students to implement and monitor stream restoration projects in central Pennsylvania.
When a stream restoration project is implemented, how do we know if it was successful?
Our work with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy helps to answer this question. We monitor stream sites before and after restoration work is completed to determine changes in fish and macroinvertebrate populations, water chemistry, nutrient concentrations and sediment size distribution.
- Assessing previously unknown trout streams in Pennsylvania- Jonathan Niles, Michael Bilger, Dan Ressler. Presented at Southern Division of the American Fisheries Society Meeting. Wheeling, WV
- Brook Trout Population and Age Structure Recovery from a Catastrophic Flood in North Central Pennsylvania- Jonathan Niles, Evan Childress, Ben Letcher, John Panas, Sam Silknetter, Desmond Edwards. Presented at Keystone Coldwater Conference. State College, PA.
- Susquehanna University and the PFBC Unassessed Waters Initiative in the Susquehanna Basin 2011-2015- Jonathan Niles and Michael Bilger. Presented at Keystone Coldwater Conference. State College, PA.
- Predicting Brook Trout Population in Pennsylvania's First and Second Order Streams using Landscape, Soil, and Land Use Variables- Dan Ressler and Jonathan Niles. Presented at Keystone Coldwater Conference. State College, PA.
- Growth Patterns of Channel Catfish in the Susquehanna River- Dan Isenberg, Jonathan Niles and Geoff Smith. Presented at Mid-Atlantic Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Kutztown, PA.
- Importance of Un-named Tributary Streams to Brook Trout Populations - Jonathan Niles and Dan Ressler. Presented at National Meeting of American Fisheries Society in Portland, Ore.
- The recovery rate of Brook Trout populations in the Loyalsock Creek watershed following catastrophic flooding - Desmond Edwards, Jonathan Niles and Michael Bilger
- Biological Effectiveness of Instream Restoration - Dan Isenberg, Desmond Edwards, Jeremy Gurbatow, Erin McKeown, David Zinn, Michael Bilger and Jonathan Niles
- Five years (2011-2015) of sampling wild trout streams with the PFBC Unassessed Waters Initiative - Jonathan Niles and Michael Bilger
- Using water temperature and mining impacts to predict brook trout populations - Natasha Page, Jonathan Niles and Dan Ressler
- Estimating water temperatures in headwater streams within brook trout habitat. Natasha Page, Jonathan Niles, and Dan Ressler
- Using landscape characteristics to predict brook trout populations - Dan Ressler and Jonathan Niles
- Landscape Characteristics of Un-named Tributaries on White Deer Creek - Daniel Ressler, Rebecca Neubauer and Jonathan Niles
- Watershed Level Response of Brook Trout Populations to Catastrophic Flooding from Tropical Storm Lee - Jonathan Niles, John Panas and Sam Silknetter
Aquatic Insect Projects
- The Effects of Orconectes rusticus on Freshwater Stream Ecosystems: a Density Study - Kelsey Hermick
- Using Benthic Macroinvertebrate Families for Monitoring in the Upper Main Stem of the Susquehanna River: Is Family-Level Identification Adequate? - Breeyon Beachel, Michael Bilger and Jack Holt
- Investigation of crayfish populations in the Middle Creek, PA watershed and the potential impact of invasive Orconectes rusticus on native ecosystems. Erin McKeown, Michael Bilger, and Jonathan Niles
- A high water summer: Assessment of benthic macroinvertebrate communities in the upper main steam of the Susquehanna River during summer of 2015. Dylan Kutz, Michael Bilger, and Jack Holt
- Bioassessment of Benthic Macroinvertebrates of the Middle Penns Creek, Pennsylvania Watershed - John Panas, Jonathan Niles, Sam Silknetter and Michael Bilger
- Assessment of Passive and Active Macroinvertebrate Collection Methods in Adjacent Reaches on the Upper Main Stem of the Susquehanna River - Katherine Guild, Andrew Anthony, Michael Bilger and Jack Holt
- Short-term Response of the Benthic Macroinvertebrate Community to Catastrophic Flooding in Central Pennsylvania - Samuel Silknetter, Jonathan Niles and Mike Bilger
- Investigation of crayfish populations in the Middle Creek, PA watershed and the potential impact of invasive Orconectes rusticus on native ecosystems - Erin McKeown, Michael Bilger and Jonathan Niles
- Passive and Active Macroinvertebrate Collection Method Assessment along Adjacent Reaches of the Susquehanna River - Andrew Anthony, Katherine Guild, Michael Bilger and Jack Holt
- A Study of Diatom Communities in Five Headwater Streams in Central Pennsylvania - Authors: Amir Alwali, Brian Rothbard, Grace O'Malley, Dylan Kutz and Jack R. Holt
- Biological Assessment of the Susquehanna River Using Biofilm Diatom Communities - Austin Iovoli, Amir Alwali, Ian Murray, Lauren Gubinski and Jack R. Holt
- A study of the diatom communities in the upper main stem of the Susquehanna River during an unusually wet summer - Amir Alwali and Jack R. Holt
- A study of diatom communities on the moss genus fontinalis in three headwater streams in Central Pennsylvania - Grace O'Malley and Jack R. Holt
- A Study of Diatom Communities in Five Headwater Streams in Central Pennsylvania - Brian Rothbard, Amir Alwali, Grace O'Malley, Dylan Kutz and Jack R. Holt
- Preliminary report on diatom communities in the upper main stem of the Susquehanna River Summer 2014 - Ian Murray, Amir Alwali and Jack R. Holt
- Diatom Community Variability in the Upper Main Stem of the Susquehanna River and Implications for Ecological Assessment - Jack Holt
Water Quality Projects
- Water Quality Index analysis of headwaters leading into Penns Creek - Michelle Barakat and Ahmed Lachhab
- Evaluation of Dissolved and Total Metals, and Volatile Organic Compounds, in Water Samples from Seven Locations Across the Upper Main Stem of the Susquehanna River near Sunbury, PA - Kristen M. Benitez, Amir Y. Awali and Lou Ann Tom
- Hydrogeochemical Processes and Water Quality Assessment of Five Penns Creek Headwater Streams - Michelle Barakat and Ahmed Lachhab
- Assessment of MIddle Creek Using Water Quality Index (WQI) and Diatom Metrics - Ahmed Lachhab, Jack Holt and Andrew Dutton Van Woert
- Lateral Mixing of the North and West Branches of the Susquehanna River at the Shady Nook Site - Tyler Menz, Ahmed Lachhab and Brian Zuidervliet
- Evaluation of Dissolved and Total Metals, and Volatile Organic Compounds, in Water Samples Across the Upper Main Stem of the Susquehanna River near Sunbury, PA. Oliver Beale and Lou Ann Tom
- Middle Creek Water Assessment using Water Quality Index (WQI) - Ahmed Lachhab, Matthew Beren and Brian Zuidervliet
- Preliminary Evaluation of Dissolved Metals in Water Samples from Seven Locations Across the Upper Main Stem of the Susquehanna River near Sunbury, PA - Kristen M. Benitez, Amir Y. Alwali and Lou Ann Tom
- Middle Creek Water Assessment using Water Quality Index (WQI) - Matt Beren and Ahmed Lachhab
- Assessment of Middle Creek using Water Quality Index (WQI) and Diatom Metrics - Ahmed Lachhab, Jack R. Holt, Andrew Dutton Van Woert, Matthew Beren and Phoebe Nicholls
- Bathymetry and Sediment Accumulation of Walker Lake, PA Using Two GPR Antennas in a New Integrated Method - Ahmed Lachhab, Aaron Booterbaugh and Matthew Beren
- Effects of Precipitation Events on the Movement of the Lateral Mixing Zone of the North and West Branches of the Susquehanna River at the Shady Nook site - Tyler Menz, Ahmed Lachhab and Brian Zuidervliet
For more information, check out our website about the red-backed salamander.
- Examining terrestrial soil invertebrates to understand the impacts of climate change on the red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus). Emily Mausteller, Michelle Gillette, Rachel Snyder, and Tanya Matlaga.
- Do forest roads and streams restrict movement of red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus)? Rachel Snyder, Emily Mausteller, and Tanya Matlaga.
- Climate change impacts terrestrial soil invertebrates and salamanders. Michelle Gillette, Emily Mausteller, and Tanya Matlaga.
- Temporal Variation in Leaf Litter Invertebrates Available to Plethodon cinereus. Zach Barker, Tanya Matlaga, and Carlos Iudica
- Forest roads and streams as potential barriers in movement of red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus). Michelle Gillette, Emily Mausteller, and Tanya Matlaga