Biology and Geoscience Faculty Receive DEP Education Grant for Local Water Quality Monitoring Project

Posted on 4/24/2017 2:32:40 PM

Through the Western PA Watershed Collaboration project, recently funded for $44,000 by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, several IUP faculty members will work with area agencies and the local school district to develop a water quality and stormwater monitoring plan. This plan will monitor the Stoney Run watershed, including parts of Marsh Run, White’s Run, and McCarthy Run, which are impacted by Indiana Borough, White Township, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania. 

The WPAWC project will be overseen by Holly Travis, associate professor of Biology; Katie Farnsworth, professor of Geoscience; David Janetski, assistant professor of Biology; Josiah Townsend, assistant professor of Biology, and Erin Janetski, IUP Biology MS candidate.

The WPAWC project will engage area elementary, secondary, and college students in monitoring the watershed impacted by commercial, educational, recreational, and residential areas. The grant will provide meaningful watershed educational experiences to southwestern Pennsylvania school districts and expand watershed education in the community through student participation in authentic scientific research, such as macroinvertebrate sample collection, rainfall and weather monitoring, data submission to a shared database, and data analysis; the use of classroom curriculum materials developed and implemented by local teachers; and participant presentations at community, regional, and statewide events throughout the year.

The project will also generate baseline water quality data for 12–15 key watershed locations that will be utilized to make governmental and environmental policy decisions. The monitoring of stormwater events, spills, and remediation efforts will be essential to establishing and maintaining a healthy watershed, with the goal of delisting several local streams in Western Pennsylvania that are currently listed as impaired.

The WPAWC project will be facilitated by Indiana University of Pennsylvania faculty and graduate students in collaboration with area stormwater, township, borough, and environmental groups, providing a model for interagency cooperation in other locations. These organizations include the Pennsylvania Senior Environmental Corps, Indiana County Conservation District, Blacklick Creek Watershed Association, Allegheny Arboretum, White Township, Indiana Borough, Stormwater Education Partnership, Evergreen Conservancy, and Indiana Area School District.

Results of the ongoing data collection and analysis will be presented to community, research, and educational organizations by local students, and the associated curriculum materials and community involvement will bring environmental education to a broad audience reaching beyond the direct participants.

Erin Janetski, IUP biology graduate student, introduces Indiana Area High School students to stream monitoring protocols during a preliminary water quality field experience. Photo: Erin Janetski, IUP biology graduate student, introduces Indiana Area High School students to stream monitoring protocols during a preliminary water quality field experience.

Department of Biology