By Chris Powers
SC Contributing Writer
As part of a collaborative effort to conserve and restore the Delaware River watershed, ESU professor of biology Dr. Paul Wilson recently received a grant from the William Penn Foundation.
This project has gone through several stages under different names. According to Wilson, “What they have been calling it now is the DRWI — or Delaware River Watershed Initiative.”
He continued, “The William Penn Foundation wanted to put money into protecting the water supply in Philadelphia and wanted to set up the infrastructure for further work.”
The project’s main purpose is maintaining and restoring the conditions of the waterways, as well as to help the surrounding communities by implementing conservation and restoration projects.
The entire Delaware River watershed is broken up into several clusters, and our region is the Pocono-Kittatinny cluster.
According to Wilson, “There is one major stakeholder in each region. Among others, the Nature Conservancy is a major coordinator of our cluster.”
Waterway pollution has impacted several communities in the Delaware River watershed. Various issues within the watershed will require the implementation of different types of projects focusing on either conservation or restoration.
According to Wilson, “Where we are the water is pretty good… We would be dealing more with conservation than restoration in the face of fracking and other sorts of impacts.”
Ryan Baldwin, an environmental studies major at ESU and student researcher on the project, added, “With today’s push for natural gas, it is a good idea to get baseline data for the future.”
Many ESU students have contributed to the DRWI, and Wilson believes that it can serve as an educational tool for those interested in research.
Wilson said, “[DRWI] is an ideal project for ESU. At the end of the day, we are a teaching institution. Anything that incorporates research into education is important. I think part of why I am here is that when I wrote the project, it wasn’t just about monitoring. It was about education.”
The research incorporates many educational aspects, and he has worked to integrate the project directly into the classroom.
During each fall semester, Wilson teaches a class focused on stream ecology, and he reports that the laboratory portion of the class reflects what the Nature Conservancy want to see.
Shannon Krieg, a student who took Stream Ecology last semester, said, “Dr. Wilson connects the lecture material to the work we are doing because in lecture we learn about the different kinds of macroinvertebrates and habitats. Using that and water chemistry can help determine the quality of the water.”
Krieg continued, “My favorite part of the class was actually going out in the field and performing these tasks.
According to Wilson, the students’ work includes rapid habitat assessment, physical and chemical measures, and an invertebrate assessment.
Wilson has already seen a positive impact in the classroom.
He said, “It wasn’t uncommon to see students working after hours to ensure that it was right.”
According to Baldwin, “It has taken what is in a textbook and I get to apply it in the field, enhancing my ability to work independently on projects.”
Being an interdisciplinary project, students of various majors are helping to complete research and reach the DRWI’s goals. Stream Ecology, BIOL 443, will continue to accomplish tasks for this project in the fall.
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