jump to example.com

Student-scientists at EMU investigate Bergton watershed’s canopy cover, water quality

Building on water quality research of three Eastern Mennonite University professors, recent graduate Hannah Daley and senior Amanda Williams concluded a summer of data collection in the Bergton area watershed. With funding from the first EMU Summer Research Grant, the partners are investigating the relationship between canopy cover and stream water temperature in two headwater streams.

emu watershed research

Senior Amanda Williams, junior Bekah Mongold and Hannah Daley ’17 take a break during summer data collection on Crab Run in Bergton, Virginia. Williams and Daley are the recipients of the first EMU Summer Research Grant, which they are using to explore the relationship between canopy cover and water temperature. (Photos by Andrew Strack)

“One goal of the Daniel B. Suter Endowment Fund is to encourage student research,” said Stephen Cessna, a biochemistry professor who holds the Daniel B. Suter Endowed Chair at EMU. “This annual competitive summer research fellowship helps our biology and chemistry students build the key skills of scientific inquiry from writing the proposal to presenting and potentially publishing their findings.”

The research project meant long days in hip waders, carrying measuring tapes and other instruments through the rock-strewn bottoms of Crab Run and the German River. They were joined on some days by Bergton native Bekah Mongold, a junior biology major.

The field work was “exciting and exhausting,” says Williams. “I love being in nature, so it is kind of like a dream come true for me to be out in the field doing research that is both helping our understanding of how percent canopy coverage affects water temperature while also adding to the larger ongoing project that has been collecting stream restoration data for many years.”

Besides the research, Daley said she enjoyed getting to know the local residents. “My favorite part of traveling to Bergton was having lunch with Marge Peevy on her porch.”

 

Gathering internships and fieldwork experience

Both scientists are veteran researchers, with experience in the prestigious Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. Additionally, Daley and Williams spent one-semester internships while at Washington Community Scholars’ Center with a NOAA-NASA contractor and at the National Museum of Natural History Botany Department, respectively. And both had worked extensively during their time at EMU on water quality projects with professors Doug Graber-Neufeld, Tara Kishbaugh and Jim Yoder.

The summer research grant offered the unique opportunity to create their own research proposal, Daley says. “After conducting the research, I can now recognized aspects of the project I should have considered in advance. One oversight was neglecting to note the peak bloom period for sycamore trees, the dominant tree species along the stream. They needed to be in full bloom to collect accurate canopy coverage data.”

The oversight pushed their anticipated May completion date into mid-September.

 

Long-term research in the Bergton watershed

Their results will contribute to several other EMU-sponsored stream restoration and research projects in the area that began in 2011. The previous year, local concern about area water resources increased, sparked by commercial interest in the potential development of a fracking site. Though the application was later denied by Rockingham County, area residents became active supporters of water quality research. The watershed, which had received notable damage through flooding in the past, is an important resource for homes and local agricultural, as well as area recreation.

A two-year interdisciplinary project started in 2014, with initial funding provided by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in collaboration with EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, Ecosystem Services LLC, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, and the Shenandoah Valley Soil and Water Conservation District.

With the help of more than 15 students over the course of several years, various baseline data has been collected including temperature, pH, total dissolved solids, barium and strontium metal concentrations, macroinvertebrate and indicator species sampling.

 

Stream health important to diversity

Daley and Williams were most interested in how upstream canopy cover on Crab Run and the German River may influence temperature fluctuations downstream. While data analysis has not concluded, they suspect that farmed areas, which are cleared of creek- and river-side foliage, would have higher temperatures because of the high level of sunlight exposure. The water under and downstream of wooded areas, conversely, would have cooler temperatures.

“Water temperature has great implications for the biota that live within the stream,” said Williams, who did a similar study in Bethany Beach canals for her 2016 summer REU project. She says that certain species of macroinvertebrates and fish can only survive in certain temperatures and if the water gets too warm, some fish cannot even live in it, because there will be little to no dissolved oxygen to breathe.

Data analysis for the project concludes this month. The partners plan to share their conclusions at an upcoming conference and with the EMU community.

After graduating in spring 2018, Williams will go to graduate school —recently the field of astrobiology has caught her attention — and then continue to pursue research.

Daley plans to earn a doctorate in chemistry with a focus on atmospheric chemistry. While working as an admissions counselor at EMU this year, she’s also co-authoring a paper based on research from her 2015 REU on effects of caffeine on athletic performance.

Story by Lauren Jefferson

   
Discussion
 
Highlights

Another new poll gives Northam big lead in Virginia governor race

One Virginia governor race poll released yesterday had Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie tied.

Poll: Trump unpopular in Virginia

President Donald Trump is well under water among Virginia voters, according to new poll results released by the University of Mary Washington.

UVA alum Chris Long to donate first six NFL game checks to fund scholarships

The Chris Long Foundation announced today that Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long will donate his first six game checks of the 2017 NFL season to fund two scholarships in his hometown of Charlottesville.

Events Calendar

Upcoming events in the Shenandoah Valley, Central Virginia and statewide from the Augusta Free Press Events Calendar. Don't see your event listed? Email augustafreepress2@gmail.com.

Game Preview: VMI, Chattanooga look to get back on track on Saturday

VMI knew the 2017 football season was going to be a rebuilding year. Chattanooga, coming off a playoff appearance in 2016, had its usual high expectations.

Game Preview: UVA has a chance at Boise State

Vegas and the ESPN Power Index don’t give UVA much of a chance to win at Boise State on Friday night.

Street Knowledge with Chris Graham: First look at UVA-Boise State

Chris Graham and Scott German take a first look at the UVA-Boise State game set for Friday night.

The Petty Hearts bring Tom Petty tribute to Wayne Theatre on Sept. 22

Tom Petty tribute band The Petty Hearts are coming to the Wayne Theatre on Friday, Sept. 22.

Web Design, Marketing

Augusta Free Press LLC provides clients in the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia and beyond with marketing and PR solutions including web design, TV/radio, social media and overall marketing campaign design and implementation.

   
Recent Posts
   
Your One-Stop Media Shop
Augusta Free Press LLC provides clients in the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia and beyond with marketing and PR solutions including web design, magazine/brochure, TV/radio, social media and overall marketing campaign design and implementation.
  • Web Design

    You want a new website, but don’t have the first clue as to how to build one. That’s our job. We take care of all facets of web design – visual design, layout design and content development. Get your business online for as little as $1,299.
    Learn more about AFP Web Design services.
  • Graphic Design

    The staff at Augusta Free Press Publishing has been recognized by the Virginia Press Association for excellence in layout and design. Whether you need a fresh business card design, rack card, ad, flyer or full magazine design, we can help with all your graphic-design needs.
    Learn more about AFP Graphic Design services.
  • Marketing

    Augusta Free Press manages advertising campaigns for small- and medium-sized businesses across Virginia. You don’t need to hire a full-time marketing coordinator. Bring the experience of the Augusta Free Press team to work for you – for a fraction of the cost.
    Learn more about AFP Marketing services.