Binghamton University has received nearly $80,000 to support student internships within 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 at a July 2 ceremony on the South Washington Street Pedestrian Bridge in Binghamton
During last year’s State of the Union address, President Bush asked the nation’s leaders to nominate proposals to support community-based approaches to clean the nation’s watersheds. A watershed is an area of land drained by a river system. They also capture precipitation, filter and store water, and determine the timing of its release. Watershed management is the control of the quality and quantity of water and the effective use of water resources within a watershed (for instance, whether a town uses water for irrigation, transportation or recreation).
This year, Congress appropriated $15 million for watershed management. Overall, 20 watershed organizations are receiving grants ranging from $300,000 to $1 million.
The EPA selected the Upper Susquehanna Coalition, a team including local government officials, environmental specialists and several Harpur College professors, from 176 grant applicants because it demonstrated it could improve water quality in a short time, had strong public support, and could work in partnerships with existing government and educational programs.
The Upper Susquehanna watershed, a 7,534-square-mile, largely agricultural area that stretches from Otsego, N.Y., to Athens, Pa., is home more than 250,000.
Binghamton University’s portion of the watershed grant, spearheaded by Joe Graney, assistant professor of geology, will fund undergraduate students to work with Broome and Tioga County soil and water conservation districts on stream restoration using natural stream design, a watershed-based wetland program that will reduce flooding and increase wildlife habitat, improving road ditches and building local storm-water coalitions.
Graduate students will also conduct internships from a research perspective, working closely with faculty. Their final reports will serve as their master’s theses.
One of Joe Graney’s graduate students will conduct watershed and stream monitoring studies to fingerprint sediment sources.
Karen Salvage, assistant professor of geology, and one 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. The students get real experience and we get real help. It’s the perfect mix,” said Jim Curatolo, watershed coordinator of the Upper Susquehanna Coalition.
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.”