• L. Jay Lemons

October 01, 2015

Stewards of Freshwater From PA to the Bay

Dear Alumni and Friends

The magazine you have in your hands has existed under the name “Currents” since 2008, owing to the university’s proximity to the Susquehanna River. This issue of Currents spotlights the spectacular waterway from which our university’s name is drawn.

Connections between students, campus and the river are plentiful, from aquatic and environmental research conducted by students and faculty to the early morning strokes of our rowing teams. At 444 miles long and drawing water from more than 49,000 miles of tributary waterways, the Susquehanna is the longest river on the American East Coast that drains into the Atlantic Ocean. It provides more than half the freshwater of the Chesapeake Bay and drinking water for more than six million people. Additionally, as a recreational and cultural asset and as a driver of tourism, the river provides significant economic benefits to the communities that line its banks.

So when in 2011, the Susquehanna was named the nation’s most endangered river by the nonprofit group American Rivers, it was as if a major alarm bell had sounded. The health of this natural resource is consequential, and we have a heightened sense that we can and must provide greater stewardship.

An extraordinary partnership was birthed in 2014 when the Richard King Mellon Foundation of Pittsburgh awarded a $2.25 million grant to establish the Freshwater Research Initiative (FRI) at Susquehanna University, including a significant new campus-based laboratory that we opened in June 2015. An extensive, highly collaborative research effort, the FRI is aimed at improving the ecological health of the river through collection and analysis of data. A robust network of academic institutions, nonprofit groups and government agencies are involved in this Susquehanna University–based initiative.

A goal of the FRI is to create a model for research and data collection that will inform the public and impact policymaking. Foundational to this is the belief that the best way to ensure the health and viability of the river is a well-coordinated, comprehensive project that leverages the expertise, experience and existing knowledge of stakeholders committed to protecting the Susquehanna River basin.

We are proud to serve as home to the FRI, and I am proud of the river research that has been underway at Susquehanna for many years through the good efforts of our faculty and students. The Mellon Foundation’s funding further validates the importance of this work and elevates it to an exciting new level. Our studentshave already benefited from the equipment purchased through the grant funds, and they’ve used the laboratory space, which is providing them with experiential-learning opportunities that are invaluable as the students prepare to embark on professional careers.

We are so grateful for the Richard King Mellon Foundation funding, which will allow us to continue our river research in exciting ways. Our hope is that the fruits of that research will help ensure access to a healthy Susquehanna River for generations to come.

With very best wishes,

L. Jay Lemons, President