Monitoring the Watershed and Offering Student Opportunities
Susquehanna University (SU), founded in 1858, is a residential, liberal arts college that offers its 2,300 undergraduate students an education that integrates the liberal arts with professional and career preparation. Located on a 325-acre campus in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, SU enrolls academically talented young people from a wide range of backgrounds. Approximately 35 percent of students are first generation college students, and 20 percent of the most recent incoming class identify as African-American, Hispanic, or other traditionally underrepresented U.S. minorities.
Among its many stellar programs, SU’s earth, environmental science, and biology programs link geology, hydrology, and ecology—and get students knee-deep in the Susquehanna River as part of the university’s Freshwater Research Institute (FRI), created in 2014 with Foundation support. With that grant, SU repurposed much of a former dairy barn into labs, classrooms, and meeting areas. It also established a cooperative research program with 10 other colleges, universities, and nonprofit groups with which the university not only engages in ecological research and restoration, but also attracts significant funding from other sources for water-based research.
A $950,000 Foundation grant awarded in 2019 is enabling SU to 1) expand collaborative research and monitoring of watershed health in the Susquehanna River and the Foundation’s focal geographies of the Moshannon and Bald Eagle watersheds. These research and monitoring efforts inform policymakers, academics, advocates, and the public about the current state of stream health and the efficacy of restoration practices; 2) increase student experiences by offering access to high-quality education, research projects (that include grants and stipends), and hands-on skills training to high-need, high-achieving students who might not otherwise have these opportunities. All facets of the FRI program aim to train and inspire the next generation of scientists and conservationists, as well as increase diversity within the ecology and environmental science fields; and 3) offer broad outreach about the importance of healthy riparian habitats to elementary and high school students, regional farmers, and the general public. SU also is using the Foundation funding to complete renovation of the former dairy barn, adding more labs, office space, and meeting areas for its staff, students, and nonprofit partners.