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Lafayette and the Bushkill Stream Conservancy have received a $31,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Growing Greener Program for their Bushkill Creek Water Assessment partnership. The proposal was submitted by David Brandes, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, on behalf of the Conservancy.

Enhancing the ongoing research on the Bushkill Creek Watershed conducted by Lafayette professors and students, the grant will support an initiative to develop a centralized monitoring database and website for watershed assessment data, install and calibrate permanent stream-monitoring equipment, and conduct outreach to local high schools. Local environmental consulting firm F.X. Browne, Inc. will also assist the Conservancy with some aspects of the project. The firm is currently preparing a formal watershed monitoring plan.

The funding complements a $15,403 grant awarded by the National Science Foundation earlier this year for the Bushkill instrumentation project run by Brandes and Dru Germanoski, professor and head of geology and environmental geosciences. The two are incorporating a comprehensive, automated watershed monitoring system into the engineering and geosciences curricula at Lafayette.

The projects benefit the Bushkill Stream Conservancy, which is dedicated to the conservation of Bushkill Creek and its surroundings, by providing the equipment and expertise necessary to collect high-quality data on the hydrology and water quality of the watershed. The grants enable installation of five automated stream gauges along the watershed, which the two professors have been studying in a cooperative effort with one another and Lafayette students. Because the creek itself forms the southern and western boundaries of the campus, the Bushkill Creek Watershed has provided an ideal resource for teaching and research in areas such as watershed hydrology, water quality, and environmental management.

The latest grant will also provide funds for development of a centralized monitoring database at Jacobsburg State Park. Until now, various citizen groups involved with stream sampling have maintained their own data, often in incompatible formats or on paper only.

Finally, environmental clubs at high schools in Easton and Penn Argyl have been monitoring the stream for several years. The grant provides funds for presentations and on-site demonstrations of the new equipment with these groups to emphasize how their efforts contribute to the larger goal of watershed conservation.

Lafayette researchers have been studying potential impacts to the watershed from land use changes and suburban development, which are rapidly changing its character. “We’re interested in providing opportunities for our students to get into the watershed and use state-of-the-art methods to collect data,” says Brandes. “When students have ‘real world’ problems to tackle outside the classroom, it helps build motivation and excitement about what they’re doing. It’s a whole lot more meaningful than reading a textbook.”

Students are involved with installation, data collection, and analysis. Those participating in research last semester included Justin Hoffmann ’02 (Hawley, Pa.) and Heron Mochny ’01 (New Dehli, India), worked with Brandes, and Nathan Hawk ’02 (Lehighton, Pa.), who teamed with Germanoski.

Categorized in: Academic News