Over 10,000 unconventional (Marcellus) wells have currently been permitted in Pennsylvania and projections of over 60,000 wells by 2030 have been made, yet little research exists to determine potential affects on stream ecosystems. Since 2011 we have been engaged in an endeavor examining potential impact of Unconventional Natural Gas Development (UNGD) on aquatic ecosystems across Pennsylvania. All streams study sites are at various stages of UNGD, and we are currently assessing water chemistry, biodiversity, genomic variation, contaminant biomagnification (mercury), and trophic food web structure. This project is a collaborative effort and involves the Lamendella Lab from Juniata College, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Hazen Lab from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The Colcom Foundation provided financial support to help start this research endeavor, and continued support has come from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), Geisinger Health Systems , the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds and concerned citizens.
The Juniata River basin is one of the most diverse watersheds in the northeastern US and faces numerous anthropogenic and natural pressures. Micropterus dolomieu (smallmouth bass- SMB) are a predominant fish throughout the Juniata basin, and recent work suggests that SMB health is being negatively affected, threatening long-term sustainability of the fishery. The overall goal of this project is to assess threats to SMB populations in the Juniata River basin and study the effects of different land-uses on stream physiochemical properties, agrochemical concentrations, and SMB health. This project is made possible with financial support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Since 2008, the Grant Lab has partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and more recently the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation towards quantifying ecological gains associated with common stream and wetland restoration efforts. Thousands of stream and wetland restoration projects are conducted each year across the Northeast towards rehabilitating degraded ecosystems. However, little information is available to determine how successful these restoration efforts are to the ecosystem. Our ongoing efforts are helping to shape future restoration efforts to maximize rehabilitation of historically degraded aquatic ecosystems.
Of Pennsylvania’s 86,000 stream miles, nearly 64,000 miles have never been surveyed for fish assemblages. We have partnered with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in the Unassessed Waters Initiative since 2011 to survey streams across Pennsylvania for the presence of wild trout. To date, we have surveyed over 250 streams and nearly half of these were found to have naturally reproducing wild brook trout populations. This information has enabled the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to protect these streams and their wetlands from development activities in watersheds. This project has also received support from the Coldwater Heritage Partnership, the Little Juniata River Association, the Blair County Conservation District, the Spring Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the John Kennedy Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and the Altoona City Water Authority
Abandoned mine drainage (AMD) impacts 20,000 km of streams across the United States. Significant money is spent each year on attempts to remediate acidic, metal laden water issuing from old mines. While remediation of AMD has shown significant promise, little is known about how remediation impacts are impacting mercury (Hg) concentration and microbial communities in receiving streams. Our ongoing work has involved partnering with Trout Unlimited and the Lamendella lab and we have found decreased Hg concentrations downstream of treatment systems- and are working towards explaining these unexpected findings.