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Energy and the Environment: IUP Capabilities

The Safety Sciences Department is a large contributor to IUP’s energy and environmental initiatives.IUP is embarking on the development of new capabilities, resources, and services for the energy industry. By establishing these capabilities, IUP can position itself as a resource and become more actively involved in local and statewide energy initiatives while helping to educate current and future energy industry workers.

The university possesses several unique areas of faculty expertise, research interests, and academic curriculums that can support research and educational partnerships and joint projects in traditional and alternative energy sectors. Explore what IUP has to offer the energy industry.

IUP Energy and Environmental Strengths

IUP has the following areas of expertise in energy:

  • Water quality monitoring
  • Community and wind energy planning
  • Safety Sciences programs
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Forest and wildlife ecology

Two teams of faculty, led by the Department of Geoscience and the Department of Geography and Regional Planning, lead the university’s initiatives, research, and resource development in these areas. IUP is a partner in the Energy Alliance of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

2010–2011 Energy and Environmental Initiatives

Water Quality Monitoring

  • Web portal for water quality data access (available in early 2011)
  • Small creeks and streams water sampling collection and analysis

Wind turbine at Yellow Creek State Park, Indiana County. Photo courtesy of Ken Bisbee, Yellow Creek State Park. Wind energy planning is a focus of some IUP faculty members.Community and Wind Energy Planning

  • Community energy plan development. Assists communities to develop new strengths in alternative/renewable energy.

Safety Sciences Programs

  • Certified wellsite first responder team (through the Pennsylvania Fire Academy)
  • PA OSHA Consultation program
  • Safety training program review services

Faculty Expertise in Energy Topics

IUP has several areas of academic and applied research expertise. The energy teams collaborate with business and industry and other organizations to foster new energy partnerships and areas of research.

Department of Geoscience

Faculty Members:

Steve Hovan, Ph.D., professor, chairperson; Katie Farnsworth, Ph.D., assistant professor; Yvonne Branan, Ph.D., assistant professor; Jon Lewis, Ph.D., associate professor

Energy Research Capabilities:

Subsurface Stratigraphy, Water Chemistry, Paleontology Research, Geochemistry Research

Laboratories and Areas of Expertise:

The Marine Sediments Laboratories houses standard equipment necessary for the wet chemical and x-ray analysis of deep-sea sedimentary deposits, including a complete collection of sieves and sieve shakers, ultrasonic baths, a ceramic rock crusher and homogenizer, hot circulating shaker baths, petrographic and binocular microscopes, large volume centrifuges, and a freeze-drying apparatus. An x-ray laboratory, funded by the National Science Foundation, includes an automated Bruker D8 powder x-ray diffractometer. Field gear includes portable vibracoring equipment for use in streams, lakes, and coastal areas.

The Paleontology Research Laboratory contains standard equipment for mechanical preparation of macrofossils and chemical extraction of microfossils, digital stereo photography of fossil specimens, and space for archival storage of collections.

The Geochemistry Research Laboratory facility includes a fume hood, drying ovens, standard wet chemistry equipment, colorimeters, muffle furnaces, and a stable isotope vacuum extraction line for preparation of a wide array of natural materials. In addition, we have a Perkin Elmer Optima 2100 DV ICP-OES.

The Structural Geology and Tectonics Laboratory houses a G5 Macintosh computer for inverse modeling of earthquake and fault kinematic data and a research-grade Nikon petrographic microscope for microstructural analysis. The microscope is outfitted with both a fluid inclusion and a cathodoluminescence stage. The lab also houses a G4 Macintosh laptop and an Xplore iX104 C2 AllVue Tablet PC outfitted with an integrated GPS antenna, both available for field mapping projects or field-based coursework.

Department of Geography and Regional Planning

Faculty Members:

John Benhart, Jr., Ph.D., professor, chairperson; Brian Okey, Ph.D., assistant professor; Richard Hoch, Ph.D., assistant professor. Staff: Robert Wilson

Energy Research Capabilities:

Spatial Environmental Analysis, Geographic Information Systems/Cartography, Underground Mine Mapping Research, Wind Energy Placement Planning, Transportation, Infrastructure, Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) Technology

Related Research:

Wind Energy Planning (Okey), Modeling Potential Wildlife-Wind Energy Conflicts (Okey) and Building a Geographic Information System for Acid Mine Drainage Remediation Planning (Benhart)

Laboratories and Areas of Expertise:

The Spatial Environmental Analysis Laboratory was designed to allow students to learn advanced environmental data collection and analysis techniques with mental data collection and analysis techniques with state-of-the-art equipment. The facility allows for the collection and integration of field data with spatial data from a myriad of other sources in order to develop geographic databases and digital mapping products.

The James E. Payne Geographic Information Systems/Cartography Lab focuses on geospatial science, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Computer Aided Drafting/Drawing (CADD), and computer cartography techniques in coursework and research. Although the laboratory contains other related capabilities, its primary purpose is to provide access to computer cartography/GIS/CADD hardware and software required by students and faculty members for coursework.

Light Detection and Ranging Technology (LiDAR), Richard Hoch, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
is a remote sensing method used to collect high-resolution topographic data. This type of data collection provides the ability to represent bare-earth surfaces (digital elevation models) within a vertical accuracy of less than twenty centimeters, and to produce accurate and precise contour line mapping at two-foot intervals. In 2006 and 2007, the PAMAP Program captured LiDAR data of the Commonwealth. This data is an excellent source for use in the preparation of permit applications, site design, and remediation efforts.

The Institute for Mine Mapping, Archival Procedures, and Safety (IMAPS), Robert E. Wilson, Director
digitally records and georeferences historical mine maps for use by the private and public sector. IMAPS processes and preserves large-format mine maps, conducts research, and is in the early stage of developing an online portal that will allow real-time, searchable access to web-based, geographically accurate mine maps. IMAPS can also perform customized project management using geographic information systems mapping to arrive at solutions for data development purposes and programming.

Department of Safety Sciences

Faculty Members:

Eric Nelson, CSP, instructor; Patrick Yorio, CSP, instructor; Lon Ferguson, Ed.D., CSP

Energy Capabilities:

Occupational safety and health, safety management, construction safety, environmental safety, workforce training, wind safety and manufacturing, natural gas drilling (shallow and deep). Safety Sciences highly differentiates IUP for energy research and workforce training and can add a unique perspective to energy research design. Safety Sciences helps to secure the safety of all workers while also increasing the knowledge of federal, state, and local compliance and regulatory matters.


  • Occupational safety and health
  • Industrial hygiene
  • Systems safety
  • Legal aspects of safety, health, and environmental regulations
  • Fire safety
  • Safety management
  • Ergonomics
  • Construction safety
  • Environmental safety
  • Hazardous materials
  • Emergency preparedness

Department of Chemistry

Faculty Members:

Nathan McElroy, Ph.D., associate professor

Energy Capabilities:

Water Quality testing

Related Research:

Determining the Effects of Acid Mine Drainage and Marcellus Shale Wells on Nonpolar Organic Contaminant Uptake in Semipermeable Membrane Devices. Semipermeable membrane devices (SPMDs) can be used to absorb nonpolar chemicals from water, somewhat like a fish that absorbs pesticides and other contaminants. Understanding how these devices work in streams with other contaminants, such as acid mine drainage, will allow for better interpretation of field study results in local waterways.

Department of Biology

Faculty Members:

Jeffery Larkin, Ph.D., associate professor

Energy Capabilities:

Forestry and Wildlife Ecology, including Wildlife Conservation; Habitat Management Impacts of Human Disturbance on Biodiversity

Dr. Larkin is available to assist the mining industry using the Forest Reclamation Approach to reforest coal surface mines in Pennsylvania, an approach he used successfully on a project in Kentucky. In addition, he studies various wildlife species that utilize reclaimed mine lands, and is able to provide insight as to how surface mines can be reclaimed and managed. Larkin has also been involved in several research projects on a variety of wildlife conservation topics. This reflects his diverse research interests, including songbird ecology and conservation, habitat management and restoration, wildlife-habitat relationships, large mammal restoration, small population biology, and impacts of human disturbances on biodiversity.

Related Research:

  1. Estimating black bear population size in Kentucky
  2. Estimating fisher population size and distribution in Pennsylvania
  3. Cerulean Warbler response to forest management in the Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky
  4. Golden-winged Warbler breeding ecology and response to habitat management in Central Pennsylvania
  5. Identifying high-quality habitats of the Allegheny wood rat within the Chestnut and Laurel Ridge systems of Pennsylvania
  6. Multiscale resource selection of Pennsylvania elk
  7. Migratory behavior of the red bat
  8. Use of wildlife overpasses by moose and roe deer in southwest Sweden

Department of Sociology

Faculty Members:

Susan Boser, Ph.D., associate professor

Energy Capabilities:

Identifying and engaging critical local stakeholders; providing training and research support as appropriate for local, problem-based research projects including facilitating collaborative processes of problem definition, data collection and analysis, and interpretation; organizing and facilitating community planning activities; and developing and implementing ongoing evaluation processes.

Department of Professional Studies in Education

Faculty Members:

Mark Twiest, Ph.D., professor

Curriculum and Workforce Development for Energy-Related Occupations

IUP offers a range of academic disciplines that support the workforce development needs of the energy industry in the Commonwealth. These include:

Geosciences: Bachelor of Science

Geography and Regional Planning: Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts, Certificate of Recognition (18 cr.) in Geographic Information Science (GIS) and Geospatial Techniques

Safety Sciences: Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, Certification of Recognition (12 cr.) in Safety Management

Chemistry: Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, Master of Arts

Biology: Bachelor of Science, Master of Science

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