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Students to benefit from EPA grant

Rebecca Hamner, Chesapeake Bay Program, and Anthony Cancro, EPA Region II, discuss the watershed initiative grant with Joe Graney, who is spearheading the project.
Binghamton University has received nearly $80,000 to support student internships and research of the upper Susquehanna River basin. The money is part of a $700,000 watershed initiative grant presented by the Environmental Protection Agency to the Upper Susquehanna Coalition.

Overall, 20 watershed organizations are receiving grants ranging from $300,000 to $1 million to support community-based approaches to clean the nation’s watersheds.

The Upper Susquehanna Coalition proposal was selected from among 176 applications because it demonstrated it could improve water quality in a short time, had strong public support and would build on partnerships with existing government and educational programs. The team includes local government officials, environmental specialists and University faculty.

The Upper Susquehanna watershed, a 7,534-square-mile largely agricultural area that stretches from Otsego to Athens, Pa., is home to more than 250,000 people.

BU’s portion of the grant, which will be spearheaded by Joseph Graney, assistant professor of geology, will support stream restoration work by undergraduates. The students will work with Broome and Tioga County soil and water conservation districts to create natural systems that will reduce flooding and increase wildlife habitat, improve road ditches and build local storm-water coalitions.

Graduate students will also conduct research that will serve as their master’s theses. A student working with Graney will conduct watershed and stream monitoring studies to fingerprint sediment sources. Karen Salvage, assistant professor of geology, and a graduate student will assess hydrological issues associated with wetland construction. John Titus, associate professor of biological sciences, and a graduate student will study nutrient retention in wetland plants. Weixing Zhu, assistant professor of biological sciences, and a graduate student will learn about plant establishment, development and functioning on the riverbanks.

“We’ve partnered with Binghamton University before,” said Jim Curatolo, watershed coordinator of the Upper Susquehanna Coalition. “The students get real experience and we get real help. It’s the perfect mix.”

The EPA grant is well timed. While Graney and his colleagues worked on the application, they were also discussing how to begin a Center for Integrated Watershed Studies at Binghamton University. “We started discussing the center at the same time we applied for the grant,” said Burrell Montz, professor of geography. “This happened at the right time to get us a good start.” Just as funding arrived from the EPA, BU’s Research Foundation approved the center.

Dale Madison, professor of biological sciences and director of the graduate program, will direct the center, with Graney and Montz as associate directors. Graney said the center will include faculty from several areas. “It’s interdisciplinary,” he said. “We’re initially merging biology, geology and geography perspectives of watersheds, as a focus point to mesh our research interests.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08