Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dr. Rier and collaborators receive President's Strategic Planning Grant to establsh a monitoring station on Fishing Creek

Drs. Rier in collaboration with Drs. Venn (EGGS), Hallen (Chemistry), Wimmer (Business Education and Information & Technology Management), Beyer (EGGS), Whisner (EGGS) and the Columbia County Conservation District will be establishing a real-time monitoring station on Fishing Creek at or near Kocher Park, north of Bloomsburg. Funding for the station is provided by a $50,000 President’s Strategic Planning Grant. This station will measure stream depth, pH, temperature, conductivity (dissolved material in water), dissolved oxygen, turbidity (suspended material in water), dissolved organic matter, phosphorus concentration, the amount of light striking the surface of the water and meteorological data.  These data will be collected automatically every 15 minutes and then uploaded to a server via cell phone modem and made available on the web in real-time.

One of the main goals of this project will be to provide an education and research tool for environmental classes and student-centered research at Bloomsburg University.  It will provide a unique resource for training students outside the traditional classroom by having them directly use the latest technology available for monitoring water quality. Environmental monitoring is quickly becoming a science that is centered on networks of autonomous sensors and the “big” datasets that are generated by these sensors (see National Ecological Observatory website for an example,  Therefore, experience working with “big data” from autonomous sensors will give our students an advantage in the job market and when applying to graduate schools.

Potential student projects include using oxygen data to understand patterns of photosynthesis, investigating the effects of storm runoff on the export of contaminants to the Susquehanna River and modeling the effects of climate change on the ability of streams in this region to sustain trout populations. One exciting aspect of this station is that it will be the first of their kind to combine all of the parameters necessary (oxygen, depth, temperature and light) to estimate, in real-time, the collective metabolic activity of all organisms in the immediate upstream reach and the factors that influence their metabolic rates (light, dissolved organic matter, phosphorus concentration and temperature).  There is considerable interest throughout the world in using “ecosystem metabolism” as a means of evaluating the health of streams and rivers.  With this station, our students will have the resources to perform some of the most comprehensive studies of stream ecosystem metabolism and how it relates to water quality that have ever been performed.

We also hope to increase the profile of the Bloomsburg University’s Environmental Science programs and provide a means by which Bloomsburg University can more effectively engage with the surrounding community, including high schools and watershed organizations, on water quality issues and the overall health of this region’s freshwater resources.