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Saint Francis to partner on local watershed restoration projects

February 3, 2012

There is nothing like hands on experience to allow students to link classroom theory to real applications. Saint Francis University students will be getting much more of this practical field time thanks to a grant from the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds. The University’s Environmental Engineering Department will receive $56,000 a year for the next three years, contingent upon meeting performance objectives, from the Foundation to assist nonprofit watershed restoration organizations in the Greater Conemaugh Watershed. The grant funds, which are being administered by the Foundation, are part of a 2011 GenOn Energy Inc. settlement agreement.

R. John Dawes, Foundation Executive Director said, “We see this project as the perfect opportunity to marry academic performance with the watershed groups need for technical assistance. We look forward to the partnership, and trust it will emulate efforts we’ve supported in eastern Pennsylvania.”

Saint Francis’ portion of the funds will be used to establish the Watershed Restoration Amplification Program (WRAP). Through WRAP, Saint Francis professors and students will be using real class projects, research teams, service-learning internships and volunteer events to assist local watershed restoration nonprofit organization. The nonprofit partners include, but are not limited to: the Kiski-Conemaugh Stream Team, Natural Biodiversity, Shade Creek Watershed Association, FracTracker, Sandyvale Memorial Gardens, the Stoneycreek-Conemaugh River Improvement Project, and Trout Unlimited.

To maximize the impact of the Foundation’s support, the university has established the Center for Watershed Research & Service (CWRS). Environmental engineering faculty member, Dr. William Strosnider will serve as the center’s director with Drs. Denise Damico (history) and Joel Bandstra (environmental engineering) as association directors. Additional Center members include Drs. Nathan Malavolti, Ed Zovinka and Charles Dameron (chemistry); Drs. Irene Wolf, Lane Loya and Sue Morra (biology); Dr. John Harris and Shawn Simmers P.E. (engineering); and Dr. Charles MacVean, Dean of the School of Sciences. Paula Craw will be the center’s director of service learning and Debra Nagel will serve as the communications coordinator.

The Watershed Restoration Amplification Program funding joins a National Science Foundation grant recently won by Dr. Bandstra to give incoming freshmen at Saint Francis research opportunities to serve their communities and advance science, opportunities that are rare in undergraduate education. Find out more information on the environmental engineering program