FULL STORY: Mellon Foundation grant to help Allegheny establish watershed research center | New

A $ 1.25 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation will help Allegheny College establish a watershed conservation research center at the school.

Faculty and students will work with community partners on conservation-oriented research and educational outreach in the upper Allegheny River basin, with a focus on the French Creek watershed.

“Allegheny College is a proven conservation partner in an important ecological region in western Pennsylvania,” said Sam Reiman, director of the foundation. “We are pleased to support the college’s Watershed Conservation Research Center, which will expand the college’s capacity to conduct in-depth environmental research, teach watershed stewardship, and foster community partnerships to promote l sustainable activation of the watersheds of the French stream and the upper reaches of the Allegheny river. . “

The official research center will meet a long-standing need for a formal research center focused on the extremely biodiversity-rich French Creek watershed, according to Kelly Pearce, assistant professor of environmental science and sustainability at Allegheny.

Pearce and Casey Bradshaw-Wilson, another assistant professor of environmental science and sustainability, will be its co-directors.

The center is in the process of being formed, with projects with students and partner agencies starting in the summer of 2022.

The work of the center will focus on three main areas: research, partnerships and educational programs.

College professors and student researchers will collect data to help protect aquatic and terrestrial wildlife species and habitats.

“The center will further strengthen the college’s nationally recognized commitment to sustainability and our distinctive approach to education, which inspires students to look at issues from multiple angles to solve problems,” said President of the Center. ‘Allegheny, Hilary Link. “The grant will also help us strengthen new and existing partnerships with our local community, enabling us to promote the immense potential of the French Creek watershed as a destination for nature tourism and related sustainable economic development.

Allegheny will provide support by integrating a number of its well-established programs into the center, such as Allegheny’s Creek Connections, an educational program for school-aged children.

Research projects will assess the value of the watershed to regional economies. The projects will identify areas with the greatest conservation value and the greatest need for restoration and monitoring of aquatic invertebrates, fish and wildlife.

“We are very excited to involve our students in local conservation and to generate a keen interest in watersheds, teaching them the importance of treating these systems as complete systems,” said Pearce.

“What happens on land really influences what happens in the water,” said Bradshaw-Wilson. “And that’s why we wanted to broaden the focus of the center to encompass the aquatic environment as well as the terrestrial environment, including the wildlife and the people who live there.”

The centre’s goals are to help those involved in it understand the watershed, identify potential problems and work with others to develop comprehensive solutions.

The broader perspective means that faculty and students could study related topics such as economics in the watershed.

The center will take an interdisciplinary approach to science communication, uniting conservation research with the creative arts, humanities and social sciences to share stories to promote the watershed and educate the public.

Community partnerships will also be fundamental for the new center.

The French Creek Valley Conservancy, based in Meadville, is eager to work with the new research center, according to Brenda Costa, executive director of the conservancy. The conservation group owns and protects over 3,000 acres in the French Creek watershed.

“We’re really excited about this because we don’t have scientific staff here at the conservatory,” Costa said. “This is a great opportunity for faculty and staff to do meaningful research that will benefit our work at the conservatory.”

Research conducted by the new center will help the French Creek Valley Conservancy with its priorities for land conservation and habitat protection, Costa said.

The center plans to create internships for students, identify research needs, conduct targeted conservation research and assess ways to promote sustainable natural tourism.

The center will use cutting-edge technology to monitor water chemistry and quality, implement conservation actions and solutions, provide education and awareness, and promote the region’s potential to serve as a destination for l ecotourism.

The center will also work closely with the Allegheny College Creek Connections program, which involves K-12 students in conservation and education activities in the watershed.

Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at [email protected]


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