October 08, 2010

West Branch of the Susquehanna River

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By Kathryn Kopchik

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Bucknell University will host the fifth annual Susquehanna River Symposium Oct. 22 and 23, with presentations and displays free and open to the public.

The symposium, "Exploring Our Vital Resource," will focus on the river's ecological health and its connection to the Chesapeake Bay, highlighting the research of scientists at the Bucknell University Environmental Center, the Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, the U.S. Geological Survey, and other organizations.

Their research is part of a comprehensive, long-term assessment of the state of the Susquehanna River, according to Benjamin Hayes, director of the Susquehanna River Initiative at Bucknell's Environmental Center.

"This symposium will explore what monitoring and assessment efforts are underway, what the research is telling us, and what things are of concern and need further exploration," said Hayes.

"As a native of Pennsylvania, I am immensely proud of our citizens' growing sense of stewardship for the land and waterways. However, we still have a lot of work to do to improve and protect the Susquehanna River. I hope public outreach events such as this symposium will disseminate the latest scientific findings to the public, spark new ideas, and facilitate conversations," he said.

Mapping the Susquehanna's Heritage
Friday's events will be held in the Terrace Room of the Elaine Langone Center, beginning at 7 p.m. with a Native American opening by Sid Jamieson, a member of the Haudenosaunee Nation and former lacrosse coach at Bucknell, and a welcome by Bucknell President John Bravman.

The presentation, "Mapping Our Common Heritage: Native Peoples, Europeans and the Susquehanna," with Katherine Faull, Bucknell professor of German and humanities, and David O'Neill, president and CEO of the Chesapeake Conservancy, will begin at 7:20 p.m. Mike Reynolds, Northeast deputy regional director for the U.S. National Park Service, will give the keynote address, "Exploring the Susquehanna: The John Smith Trail," at 7:35 p.m. WVIA-TV will show a short documentary, "Reflections of the Susquehanna." For a complete schedule, see Friday's events.

Research posters and evening social
"A highlight of every River Symposium is the research poster session and this year looks to be the largest ever," said Hayes. "More than 100 students and faculty from numerous universities and agencies will present research on a wide range of topics, including aquatic ecology, river engineering, wetlands ecology, fluvial geomorphology, fisheries biology, environmental geochemistry, watershed geology, and river hydrology.  

"In addition, exhibits by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Trout Unlimited, and others will be on display," he said.

Many of the student posters also will be on display on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon in the Center Room of the Elaine Langone Center.

State of the Susquehanna
Saturday's symposium will focus on scientific research and environmental assessments reporting on the state of the Susquehanna River by research partnerships throughout the watershed.

"The State of the Susquehanna Assessment is a comprehensive, long-term, intensive study of the river underway by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in partnership with Bucknell University and the Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies," said Hayes.

"The assessment is intended to provide a comprehensive assessment of river health, from crayfish, hellbenders, and brook trout to shad, algae and invertebrate communities. We are interested in the condition of the watershed, from the main stem of the Susquehanna to its tributaries. 

"Since the 1970s, the overall health of the river has gradually improved in distinct ways, as abandoned mine discharge and sediment yields have been addressed and reduced. Another benefit has been the implementation of best management practices by the agriculture and timbering industries.

"The situation is complex and the Susquehanna faces enormous pressure from many different directions. Additional research of the river is needed, especially of its hydrology and physical habitat, and how dissolved oxygen fluctuations, heavy metals and endocrine disruptors are affecting aquatic life. Also of concern is the impact of the development of natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale, which underlies much of the watershed's headwater regions," he said.

Science and research: Keys to assessing the river
Saturday's events begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Gallery Theatre of the Elaine Langone Center with the keynote address, "The Susquehanna River's Health: What Are the Fish and Water Telling Us?" by John Arway, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and a leading aquatic scientist helping to protect and improve fisheries habitat in the Susquehanna River.

The keynote will be followed by presentations of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission's effort to monitor and assess the river on a watershed scale; fish dams, fish migration and other issues; and logging's legacy and its impact on streams and the river.

Three more presentations, scheduled for Trout Auditorium in the Vaughan Literature Building, will begin at 11:30 a.m.: reports on monitoring the water quality in the river; population studies of crayfish and hellbenders in the north and west branches; and variability in water quality and benthic communities at the confluence of the north and west branches.

A panel discussion, "Partnerships in the Susquehanna River Basin: Hopes for 2011 and Beyond," will be held at 12:30 p.m. in Trout Auditorium. Panelists include John Arway, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission; Tom Beauduy, Susquehanna River Basin Commission; John Dawes, Foundation for  Pennsylvania Watersheds; and Marel Raub, Chesapeake Bay Commission.

Saturday afternoon's events in Trout Auditorium will include discussions of targeted abandoned mine draining remediation, and natural gas in the Marcellus Shale.

Faculty, organization presenters
Speakers from the Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies include: R. Craig Kochel, Jessica Newlin, Matt McTammany, Carl Kirby, Benjamin Hayes, and Cathy Curran Myers (Bucknell University); Steve Rier, Cynthia Venn and Chris Hallen (Bloomsburg University); Brian Mangan (Kings College); Mohamed Khalequzzaman and John Way (Lock Haven University); Mel Zimmeran and Peter Petokas (Lycoming College); and Jack Holt and Ahmed Lachab (Susquehanna University).

Speakers from agencies contributing to the river assessment include: Jennifer Hoffman, Susquehanna River Basin Commission; Geoff Smith, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission; Vicky Blazer, U.S. Geological Survey; Mike Bilger, EcoAnalysts, Inc.; Tom Clark, Susquehanna River Basin Commission; Becky Dunlap and Amy Wolf, Trout Unlimited; and Jim Richenderfer, Susquehanna River Basin Commission.

Closing comments will be given at 3 p.m. by Skip Wieder, Susquehanna Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies. For a complete schedule, visit Saturday's events.

Contact: Division of Communications


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