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Penn State DuBois Student Awarded for Environmental Research

In the photo, L-R, are Andie Graham and Assistant Professor of Geosciences Ben Turner.
6/2/2010 —

DuBois – Penn State DuBois Earth Science student Andie Graham took first place in the student poster contest at the Fifth Annual West Branch Susquehanna Restoration Symposium, hosted by the West Branch Susquehanna Restoration Coalition (WBSRC) in Williamsport in May.  Her project poster reflected two years of research that she has conducted along with Penn State DuBois Assistant Professor of Geosciences Ben Turner. 

The symposium is held each year to highlight efforts being made to cleanup pollution in the West Branch of the Susquehanna watershed.  According to the WBSRC, abandoned mine drainage (AMD) is the single largest source of pollution to waterways within the watershed.  Approximately 30 groups consisting of watershed associations, Trout Unlimited chapters, conservation districts, and local businesses have come together to form (WBSRC) in a grassroots effort to clean up this water system.

For the past two years, Graham's work has consisted of monitoring pH levels at the Bilger Run wetland, located near Curwensville, Clearfield County. The site was severely impacted by AMD due to years of extensive coal and clay mining. The company, Hedin Environmental, started to treat the water there with limestone in 2008, with hopes of improving the water quality. Building upon research conducted by The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Graham and Turner studied the water at the Bilger site, and found the treatment is working.

"Results indicate that the water quality has slowly, but steadily improved since the implementation of the treatment system," Graham said. "After treatment, the pH increased from September 2008 to April 2009 with an average pH of 4.67." 

Their work is important because of the significant environmental impacts it could uncover.  It is possible that bird species in the area could be drastically affected by the AMD.  A reduction in the pollution could mean a resurgence of some species, although continued research is required on the subject. 

Graham received a $200 prize for her first place win in the poster contest.  However, she said the experiences she has had doing this work are the real prize.

"This has given me the opportunity to meet and work with several conservation groups such as Trout Unlimited, and the Western PA Conservancy. My involvement with these groups has led to several other great opportunities," she said. 

Remaining humble, Graham was also sure to give credit to fellow researchers, and those who have helped her along the way.

"As far as the award goes, there were so many wonderful presentations at the symposium, so I was really surprised when they announced that I had won. It was really unexpected," she said.  "Also, my Penn State DuBois instructors Keely Roen, and Joe Hummer, and Terry O'Conner from the Anderson Creek Watershed Association have been a huge help throughout this project."

For more information on efforts to clean up the West Branch of the Susquehanna and the entire watershed, visit http://www.wbsrc.org/index.html

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