Plymouth State Partners with White Mountains Environmental Groups in Climate Change Research

January 12th, 2016 by June

January 11th, 2016 by blyndes

Hydrologist Dan Evans installing instruments at the top of the Eddy flux tower. Mark Green photo.

Hydrologist Dan Evans installing instruments at the top of the Eddy Flux tower. Mark Green photo.

PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Standing high above the hardwood tree canopy of the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, a steel tower glistens in the sun. Scientific instruments mounted to the top of the 110-foot structure work non-stop, gathering data on moisture, carbon dioxide content and temperature. According to PSU Professor of Hydrology Mark Green, the Eddy Flux research tower is measuring how the forest reacts to changes in the atmosphere.

“We’re watching the forest breathing,” Green stated. “The instruments measure the carbon dioxide coming down during the day when the trees are photosynthesizing and then at night when they’re releasing carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. It also measures how much water is being released into the atmosphere during the day. The resulting change in air temperature helps measure how the forest is responding to climate warming.”

Green continued by saying the data from Hubbard Brook tells a scientific story, and those results must be correctly communicated to adopt fact-based environmental policy changes.

“We’re documenting how the forest is responding to carbon dioxide and temperature fluctuations, but if we’re not communicating it clearly as scientists, decision makers can’t develop policies to respond to what we’re seeing.”

The $50,000 cost of the tower was paid for, in part, by the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station, which has a critical interest in the health of thousands of acres of forestland in New England.

View of the core Eddy Flux instrumentation at the top of the tower with the Hubbard Brook experimental watersheds in the background. Mark Green photo.

View of the core Eddy Flux instrumentation at the top of the tower with the Hubbard Brook experimental watersheds in the background. Mark Green photo.

“The forest has already shown us a lot,” said Green. “The precipitation we’ve seen this decade is a solid 15 percent higher than over the past 100 years. Whether that’s going to persist, we don’t know, but the forest definitely responds to events like that, through higher stream levels and increased potential for flooding.”

The tower also provides an extraordinary learning resource for Plymouth State students, according to Atmospheric Science and Chemistry Professor Eric Kelsey.

“Students learn about relationships between the energy, carbon and water budgets in Hubbard Brook and how they relate to forest ecosystem dynamics,” said Kelsey. “The proximity of the flux tower to PSU allows easy access for students to visit the site, learn about how the measurements are taken and then apply the concepts learned in class.”

For more information about this release, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU Media Relations Mgr., (603) 535-2775 or blyndes@plymouth.edu.

Apply soon for Graduate Assistantships for 2016-2017

January 4th, 2016 by June

Geoff camera 127Plymouth State University (PSU), Plymouth, NH, is inviting applications for its MS program in Environmental Science and Policy (ES&P). We offer expertise in areas of watershed ecosystems, hydrology, climate change, ecological economics, landscape ecology, and land use planning. Our curriculum emphasizes the relationships between science and policy, decision making for social and ecological sustainability and resilience, and science communication. Students in the program often collaborate with interdisciplinary teams of faculty, students, and scientists from other academic, governmental, and non-governmental organizations including organizations such as Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, White Mountain National Forest, NH Department of Environmental Services, Appalachian Mountain Club, and the Squam Lakes Association.

Students accepted to PSU’s MS in ESP may be eligible for graduate assistantships (GA) with PSU’s Center for the Environment. For academic year 2016-17, we anticipate GAs in the following areas:

  • Limnology and paleolimnology research projects on several lakes in Northern New Hampshire and Maine.
  • Phenology research on alpine and woodland flowering plants in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
  • Analysis of long-term environmental data sets.
  • Water chemistry dynamics and laboratory analysis.

Assistantships are available only to full-time students enrolled in the MS program in Environmental Science and Policy and typically provide a stipend of $8,000 and 15 credits of tuition per year. Applications to the MS in ES&P are submitted to PSU’s Graduate Studies. For more information, please contact Associate Director of the Center for the Environment and MS ES&P Program Coordinator June Hammond Rowan (jhammondrowan@plymouth.edu).

Seeking M.S. graduate assistant for EPA project on understanding values of water quality improvements

December 4th, 2015 by June

DSCN0169The Center for the Environment (CFE) and the Masters of Science Program Environmental Science & Policy at Plymouth State University (PSU) seeks applicants for a unique and exciting graduate research assistant (GRA) position focused on understanding non-use values of water quality improvements in small streams for an anticipated project.

The successful candidate will have the opportunity to work with collaborators from Dartmouth College and regional and State partners to better understand how non-use values can be assessed and integrated into decision making in the Great Bay Watershed. Great Bay is one of only 28 estuaries of National Significance and is facing impairment challenges in both the Estuary and its watershed.

Students with environmental science & policy, economics, and social science research backgrounds and interests are encouraged to apply. Previous experience interacting with stakeholders through interviews and/or focus groups is highly valuable as well as coursework and/or a strong interest in ecological/environmental economics. Priority will be given to applications completed and received by Jan. 15, 2016. All GRAs are for students accepted into the MS program in Environmental Science and Policy (ES&P) and provide an excellent opportunity to work with a broader cohort of students and their mentors. Application requirements for the MS in ES&P are available on the ES&P Department website.

PSU is an equal-opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, gender or religious preference. In addition, the project leaders have a strong commitment to enhancing research opportunities for under-served groups and we encourage individuals belonging to any perceived minority group to apply.

CFE facilitates interdisciplinary environmental research, education, and public engagement in the northern New England region. CFE engages in research and education in support of graduate student research and in meeting the needs of regional partners, such as the White Mountain National Forest, Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, Squam Lakes Association, NH Department of Environmental Services, and other environmental organizations. The PSU campus and the surrounding Lakes and White Mountains regions provide excellent facilities and an outstanding natural research laboratory.

Please contact Dr. Shannon Rogers for more information about the position and the application process:  shrogers@plymouth.edu

MS ES&P Alumna Jamie Sydoriak Featured on Plight of the Grassland Birds

October 2nd, 2015 by June

SydoriakJamie Sydoriak, a 2014 graduate of PSU’s MS in Environmental Science & Policy program, is featured in the New Hampshire Public Televisions documentary on Plight of the Grassland Birds, which will air on October 8 at 9 pm. While at PSU, Jamie worked with CFE and advisor Len Reistma on a project with the Vermont Center for Ecosystem Studies on protecting grassland bird habitat.

More information about the documentary is available from NHPTV.

Fall 2015 Environmental Science Colloquium

September 18th, 2015 by June

PSU CenterEnvironment_Fall2015The Center for the Environment is hosting The Environmental Science Colloquium this fall. The Colloquium series is for students, faculty, and the public and we invite all to come hear the latest on environmental research and topics of interest to our region. Talks are at 4 pm in Boyd Science Center, Room 001. We look forward to seeing you!

Sept. 23, Modeling complex systems to set research and conservation priorities, Elizabeth Harper, New England College & Affiliated Faculty, Center for the Environment, Plymouth State University

Sept. 30, Conservation of birds in a changing climate with special attention to Neotropical-Nearctic migrants like the Blackpoll Warbler, William DeLuca, UMass Amherst

Oct. 21, Resilience of New Hampshire’s hydrology to disturbance, Mark Green, Center for the Environment and Department of Environmental Science & Policy, Plymouth State University

Oct. 28, North America’s Great Basin: A climate and water conundrum, Scotty Strachan UNevada-Reno

Nov. 18, Integrating bottom up knowledge into a top down organization- a story of sustainability efforts at US Army Corps, Shannon Rogers, Center for the Environment and Department of Environmental Science & Policy, Plymouth State University

Dec. 9, Patterns in macroinvertebrate abundance and diversity in a headwaters stream in Coos County, Brigid O’Donnell, Center for the Environment and Department of Biology, Plymouth State University

New England Surfers Care about Water Quality, According to Preliminary Survey Data

September 18th, 2015 by June

New England Sustainability Consortium Media Release
Contact: Evelyn Jones, NH EPSCoR, evelyn.jones@unh.edu

Shannon Rogers, assistant professor of Environmental Science & Policy at PSU’s Center for the Environment (right), and Sophie Scott PSU graduate student (left) at North Hampton State Beach, NH. Photo by Evelyn Jones, NH EPSCoR.

Shannon Rogers, assistant professor of Environmental Science & Policy at PSU’s Center for the Environment (right), and Sophie Scott PSU graduate student (left) at North Hampton State Beach, NH. Photo by Evelyn Jones, NH EPSCoR.

Up and down the Maine and New Hampshire coastline researchers from Plymouth State University have been on a summer “surfari”, scouring beaches and vigilantly watching for primo weather forecasts. They want waves (not just ankle biters). Because they know when the surfs up, that’s where they’ll find surfers. Once sighted, they approach their targets with clipboards and surf wax. They’ve interviewed almost 245 surfers this year from Scarborough, ME to Seabrook, NH.

Shannon Rogers is not an average beachgoer, looking for a relaxing day on the shore. She’s an assistant professor of Environmental Science & Policy at Plymouth State University’s Center for the Environment. She and her PSU graduate student Sophie Scott want to know how issues around water quality are perceived locally in NH and ME. They are part of a larger collaborative research project involving several New England universities and dozens of scientists in examining sources of coastal water pollution and strategies for managing beach advisories and closures.

“The idea to study surfers came up because they are the most exposed to the water and are generally perceived as having a ‘laissez faire’ attitude about the associated risks. They are more likely to be active during storms and after it rains, when water quality is lowest. And they use the ocean year round”, says Rogers. “We are studying their perception of risk related to water quality and trying to understand how much local ecological knowledge the surfing community possesses. Given the nature of the sport, they are also more apt to ingest water or get cuts or scrapes.”

Rogers and Scott decided the best way to tap into this knowledge was to chase the Big Kahuna by hitting the beaches. In the spring, they started talking with Surfrider Foundation and various gatekeepers in the Gulf of Maine beach and surfing community (i.e. surf shop owners, seasoned surfers, state resource agencies) along the coast as part of long scoping interviews. They gathered information about where to surf, why people choose to go surfing at various locations, and how they get their knowledge of different areas. From there, they developed a very brief survey that could be administered on the beaches in 2-3 minutes.

Scott began administering the short beach survey as part of her PSU graduate thesis in late spring. “I’m a Mainer and my background is in sustainable agriculture with an interest in food systems. I was raised in a family of fisherman. My father was an “egga” (sea urchin diver) and he’s an old school Maine surfer,” said Scott. “Examining beaches was different twist for me, but I’m interested in water quality and know that the surfing community is in the water more than anybody else. Based on the survey responses so far, surfers have provided a lot of local ecological knowledge.”

Michele Pruyn

July 22nd, 2015 by June

After a long illness, Michele Pruyn passed away on July 17, 2015 surrounded by family and friends.

Michele was an Associate Professor of Plant Biology and an affiliate faculty member in the Center for the Environment. Prior to coming to PSU in 2006, Michele earned her PhD in Wood Science and Forest Science from Oregon State University, an MS in  Botany and Plant Pathology from Michigan State University, and a BS in Biological Sciences from the University of Chicago.

Michele was a dedicated teacher who loved working with students. Her teaching areas included: Biological Science I, Plants and Civilization, Botany, Evolution, and Plant Physiology. As a tree eco-physiologist she researched factors controlling tree species distributions in the northern hardwood forest. Her most recent work focused on investigating the long term effects of acid rain on tree health and productivity. She was also interested in the physiological differences among tree species (especially yellow birch) along environmental gradients, such as elevation, aspect and changing soil characteristics.

Over the years Michele mentored many undergraduate students in her plant physiology lab, and served as a thesis advisor for graduate students in the M.S. in Biology and M.S. in Environmental Science & Policy programs.

Michele played a leadership role in CFE’s NSF-funded Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. During her time at PSU she also served on the Research Advisory Council, the Curriculum Committee, and the Campus Community Council, among many other activities.

Michele will be missed by the PSU community for, among many other things, her signature smile and her deep love and commitment to her students.  She is survived by her husband and two boys.

STEM-Health Camp

July 16th, 2015 by June

STEM Camp5th Annual STEM-Health Camp at White Mountains Community College: Exploring Temperature and Links to Human Health

White Mountains Community College and the North Country Health Consortium recently held the 5th Annual Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) – Health camp in Berlin, NH in June. STEM – Health camp is a project-based camp for students entering grades 6 through 8. It provides hands-on activities that are introductory and interactive in areas of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and public health.

At Camp, Dr. Kathleen Bush, External Affiliate Faculty at Plymouth State University (PSU) Center for the Environment, introduced students to the connections between Climate Change and Public Health in an activity titled: Monitoring Air Temperature & Communicating Health Risks.

On Monday, students were given a brief introduction to temperature variability and then they deployed 10 temperature sensors on WMCC’s Campus. The HOBO temperature sensors were borrowed from the PSU Department of Atmospheric Science and Chemistry. Temperature was automatically logged every 15 minutes from Monday at noon to Wednesday at 5pm, at which time the sensors were collected and all of the data were downloaded. On Thursday, students followed a guided exercise and learned to create time series plots using Excel and compared temperature extremes at different sites.

Students then shifted gears and considered the impact of extreme temperatures on human health. Ongoing work at NH Department of Health and Human Services Climate and Health Program is exploring the impact of extreme temperatures on mortality and morbidity. Working in small groups, students were prompted to develop a Public Health Message to protect human health during temperature extremes. Students then designed posters to communicate their message and shared their ideas with the group. Messages ranged from sassy to serious and included: “Don’t let dehydration ruin your vacation;” “Cool Down. Hydrate. Stay Cool;” “Keep it cool, every day;” “Stay Calm … and drink water;” and “Beat the Heat.”

Development of the Climate and Health Activity was supported by a NH EPSCoR Seed Grant in partnership with the Climate and Health Program at NH DHHS and WMCC. Other activities at this year’s camp included Geographic Positioning Systems, Rocket Building, Catapult Building, Veterinary Medicine, Fresh Water Science, and much more. The WMCC STEM – Health camp is supported by the New Hampshire Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NH EPSCoR), the New Hampshire Space Grant Consortium, the Northern New Hampshire Area Health Education Center, The Community Colleges of New Hampshire Foundation, and the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

Mark Green Studies Benefits of Reduced Road Salt

June 23rd, 2015 by June
Plymouth State University Associate Professor of Hydrology Mark Green.

Plymouth State University Associate Professor of Hydrology Mark Green

PLYMOUTH- Reducing the use of road salt through research, citizen science, and innovative technologies may soon protect public health and water resources while saving municipalities money.

After a long winter, summer is especially sweet and thinking about winter road salt is not appealing. But increasingly, the use of road salt as a deicer is jeopardizing both public and aquatic health in New Hampshire and across the nation.

It’s estimated that 18 million tons of salt are spread on U.S. roadways each year, causing serious and permanent water contamination. A sizeable portion of that salt is probably applied redundantly.

In the early 1940s, New Hampshire was the first state to adopt a general policy to use road salt as a deicer. In 2008, according to the N.H. Department of Environmental Services (DES), the state listed 19 chloride-impaired water bodies as defined by the Clean Water Act. In 2010, DES provided training for snow removal contractors on how to use salt efficiently through its NH Road Salt Reduction program. Nonetheless, by 2012, the number of chloride-impaired water bodies had increased to 46.

“This impairment primarily impacts aquatic organisms,” says Mark Green, associate professor of hydrology at Plymouth State University’s Center for the Environment. “High chloride concentrations create an unhealthy environment for them.”

Volunteer Scientists make wide-scale measurement possible
There’s an old adage, “What you can measure, you can manage.” Since 2012, throughout New Hampshire and to some extent in Massachusetts and Maine, 42 citizen scientists have been collecting data from 110 sensors placed in streams and rivers. The sensors measure the ability of water to conduct electricity. The more salt, the greater the conductivity.

These citizen scientists are part of the LoVoTECS network or more precisely the Lotic Volunteer Temperature, Electrical Conductance, and Stage Sensing Network. (It helps to know that in Latin, lotic refers to “flowing water.”) This work is part of NH EPSCoR’s Ecosystems and Society project, funded by the National Science Foundation, and Plymouth State is a research partner in the project.

Data is uploaded to the project’s Data Discovery Center, an online digital library, which includes a broad suite of environmental information, tools and resources.

No surprise that water near roadways has high conductivity. In fact, says Green, who started the LoVoTECS network, “I didn’t fully appreciate how broad of an issue road salt contamination has been in New Hampshire. The salt is percolating vertically down into the ground water. It will probably take decades to flush out.”

Innovative technology can help
Recently Green was contacted by Andrew Jaccoma of Sensible Spreaders Technologies.  “Andrew is interested in learning where road salt is most problematic,” says Green. “He’d like to incorporate our findings in their ‘Coverage Indication System’ for road maintenance trucks. When trucks come to sensitive areas, the salt spreader would indicate such areas to the operator or automatically adjust and protect those areas. We’ve got the data now and we’re really excited about this collaboration.”

For Jaccoma, an entrepreneur who has a deep interest in natural research, collaboration with LoVoTECS and Sensible Spreader Technologies means more protection for the state’s water resources.

In 2012 while earning his MBA at UNH’s Paul College of Business and Economics, Jaccoma learned about the effects of chlorides on the environment and drinking water. He had been looking for a big problem worth solving and knew he’d found one.

“I hit upon the idea of coverage indication software for fleets of road maintenance trucks because of my experience working with radar,” says Jaccoma, who has an undergraduate degree in marine transportation. He points out that there are many similarities between trucks salting roads in blizzards and ships navigating at night in busy harbors. He was able to convince a few highly skilled engineers from around the state to work with him and the award-winning project was launched.

Sensible Spreaders Technologies aims to increase road safety, reduce wasteful dissemination of deicers, and lessen impact on the environment by integrating the latest technology into road maintenance equipment.

During the winter of 2013–14, Sensible Spreader Technologies conducted a pilot project in Manchester and Laconia. After collecting 2 GB of data the results indicated that an overlap problem was occurring 10–30 percent of the time, especially in and around grid-type infrastructures. “It’s very difficult for plow truck operators to know when material was last applied to a particular road,” says Jaccoma. “When in doubt, they apply more material.”

Consequently, the engineering team at Sensible Spreader Technologies created the “Coverage Indication System” for winter road maintenance, which shows operators where material has been applied and where it was needed over time durations. In most cases by eliminating material-based overlap, it is estimated that municipalities could save from $2,000 to $6,000 per truck, per year.

The impact of good stewardship
Meanwhile since 2012, LoVoTECS volunteers have logged in thousands of hours and miles. It’s clear why Green and his PSU research team of students and staff refer to this dedicated team of 42 volunteer scientists as his partners.

Marshall Davenson, a science teacher at Keene High School, engages his students in his volunteer work for LoVoTECS. “I thought it would be a great way to incorporate real science into the curriculum,” says Davenson. He and his students have been monitoring two sensors in a local, urbanized brook for the past three years. One sensor is placed before the brook enters the city and the other as the brook exits the city.

“We get to see the impact that the city has on Beaver Brook,” says Davenson. “The information that we get from the sensors allows my students to use primary sources to analyze data and to propose new scientific questions as well.”

Jim Holmes, a citizen scientist from Jefferson, collects data for LoVoTECS from a couple of sites along the pristine Israel River, which runs along U.S. Highway 2.

“Even with a schedule like mine,” says Holmes who works full time and has a part-time photography business, “it’s possible to make this volunteer commitment.” Why does he do it? Holmes, who also serves on Jefferson’s Conservation Commission, says simply, “I think data from this program can help us to be better stewards of our natural resources.”

In the near future and hopefully before the next winter storm, when LoVoTECS data can inform the work of Sensible Spreaders Technologies, the result of this collaboration will be less salt on roadways where salt is of critical concern. “We believe that better data about road salt in our streams and rivers will lead to better water quality,” says Green, “Our high quality of life in New Hampshire depends on good water.”

Since this water sensor data collection has proven to be so useful, it’s being adapted to other kinds of environments. Recently, LoVoTECS expanded into coastal Maine as part of another NH EPSCoR project investigating beach and shellfish harvesting closures.

Carrie Sherman

Resources

For more information about the LoVoTECS volunteer network, visit: https://www.plymouth.edu/center-for-the-environment/projects/ecosystems-and-society-nh-epscor/nh-lovotecs-network/ or http://ddc.sr.unh.edu/projects

For more information about NH EPSCoR’s Ecosystems and Society project, visit: http://www.nhepscor.org

Student Research Presentations

May 1st, 2015 by June

This spring, a number of students are completing the Master of Science degree. As part of their degree requirements, the students are presenting their research. Please join us for these presentations!

May 5 – 9:30 am – Boyd 001: Jen Bell, Testing the Floristic Quality Assessment as an Indicator of Human Disturbance in Forested Wetlands of New Hampshire

May 7 – 11:00 am – Boyd 001: Jess Wilhelm, Trace Metal Concentrations in New England Rivers and Streams

May 8 – 9:30 am – Lamson 124: Jonathon Loos, Understanding Stakeholder Preferences for Flood Adaptation Alternatives with Ecosystem Service Implications

May 12 – 9:00 am – Boyd 144: Greg DiSanto, Soil condition and morphology on hiking trails in the White Mountains Region

May 12 – 2:00 pm – Boyd 144: Melanie Perello, Linking the effects of land use vs. climate change on water quality in northern New England lakes

May 12 – 4 pm – Boyd 144: Curtis Mooney, Upstream Passage of American Eels (Anguilla rostrata) in the Merrimack River Garvins Falls Hydroelectric Project Passage Case Study

May 26 – 10:00 am – Boyd 001: Chelsea Berg, Evaluating the Ecosystem Service of Nutrient Removal in a Coastal Watershed: A Case Study of New Hampshire’s Great Bay

Contact Us

Contact Us

January 9th, 2013 by Michael

Center for the Environment

Plymouth State University
Samuel Read Hall Building, 2nd Floor
MSC #63, 17 High Street
Plymouth, NH 03264
psu-cfe@plymouth.edu

phone (603) 535-3179
fax (603) 535-3004