Making A Difference From The Headwaters To The Chesapeake Bay
The Freshwater Research Institute 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.
Unassessed Waters Initiative
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 849 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.
Read more about a PPL grant that will help us with our stream restoration work.
Restoration Opportunities for Landowners
If you are a landowner in Clinton, Centre or Lancaster counties, this mapping tool can give you information about restoration opportunities on your land.