New Hampshire needs $3 billion in water related infrastructure in next decade

March 27th, 2014 by Lynn

     PSU Water Conference speaker warns of legislative inaction

    John Gilbert speaks at the 2014 NH Water and Watershed Conference at Plymouth State University March 21. Courtesy Photo.

    PLYMOUTH — New Hampshire needs to revitalize its water system infrastructure over the next decade or it faces a crisis affecting the state’s economy. That according to John Gilbert, chairman of the New Hampshire Water Council, who spoke at Plymouth State University’s New Hampshire Water and Watershed Conference March 21.

    Gilbert reported that it will cost $2.9 billion over ten years to repair the state’s aging and overburdened waste and storm water treatment plants, potable water utilities and underground piping. He believes inaction will create major problems.

    “It is difficult to predict what would precipitate a water crisis,” Gilbert said. “Maybe the southeast corner of the state could stop development because there is not enough water, or the Boston Metro area may need more water than the Quabbin Reservoir can provide and propose a big pipeline to get their water from the North Country. We don’t want to say the sky is falling, but we’re already seeing problems, and they will get much worse within ten years. We need to start chipping away at this.”

    Gilbert is also a member of New Hampshire Lives on Water Project, a group of volunteers that is trying to build a coalition of citizens to advocate for maintaining long term sustainability of the water resources. Gilbert believes citizen advocates are crucial in moving the state toward sustained attention to addressing the problem, because of the short-term focus of the political system.

    “I think it’s unlikely the legislature will embrace this in the first instance, which is why we talk about needing develop a very broad based constituency that keeps pushing the legislature forward,” Gilbert said. “I like the idea of trusting the public because they’ve shown remarkably sophisticated understanding when they’ve been given the background information; the public is going to have to lead the legislature on this.”

    Gilbert also said recent changes in severe weather show New Hampshire’s storm water systems need upgrading, and doing so could actually save money because it could prevent costly property damage, like road and bridge washouts.

    The New Hampshire Water Infrastructure Funding Commission recently released a report with suggestions on funding water related projects.

    Dr. Joseph Boyer, Director of Plymouth State’s Center for the Environment, said the institution will work with state officials in finding solutions to water concerns.

    “We expect the Center for the Environment will continue to act as a resource in facilitating future public policy development and water issues,” Boyer said. “We would like to thank all of the conference participants for their continued commitment to this important topic.”

    The day-long conference at PSU featured more than 40 talks addressing current water related research as well as effective strategies at the local, regional, state, and federal levels about changing environmental and societal conditions and their effects on New Hampshire’s water resources and aquatic environment. Specific topics included watershed planning, restoration, and management; education and outreach; ecosystem services of lakes, rivers, and watersheds; coordinating a response to climate change; and water quality and quantity.

    Plymouth’s first Science Brew Café a success

    October 24th, 2013 by Lynn

      It was standing room only October 15 at Biederman’s Pub for the first Science Brew Café.

      PLYMOUTH — Plymouth’s first Science Brew Café was held on October 15 at Biederman’s Deli and Pub. Even though the Red Sox were playing an important post-season game, over fifty people, including community members and PSU students, came to learn about science in an informal setting.

      The topic on tap for the first Science Brew Café was “Sensing New Hampshire’s Streams and Rivers.” Hydrologist and assistant professor Mark Green gave an overview of a research project using 200 sensors at 100 sites to study water quality and flow. The sensors collect information on conductivity, temperature and stage every five to 15 minutes year round creating a large volume of data. Conductivity serves as a measure of water quality and stage relates to the flow and amount of water in the rivers and streams.

       Errin Volitis, a research technician working on the project, talked about her work coordinating the installation of the sensors and training volunteers to help with the project. The sensors are hosted by volunteers and organizations around New Hampshire and each has a specific research question which the data from the sensors will help to address. Ashley Hyde, a graduate student in Environmental Science and Policy, explained how the data are also being used by school teachers and students at all levels throughout the state to give them experience in understanding their local environment and data analysis.

      Science Cafés take place all over the globe with the goal of bringing science and scientists into a community in a casual setting. Please see http://www.sciencecafes.org for more information. New Hampshire recently formed a Science Café Coalition http://sciencecafenh.org. The State currently has ongoing Cafés in Portsmouth, Nashua, and Lebanon.

      The Plymouth Science Brew Café was organized by assistant professor Shannon Rogers and Plymouth State University’s Center for the Environment. Thank you Biederman’s for hosting the event and also to the presenters. Support for this event was also provided by NHEPSCoR and the National Science Foundation (http://www.epscor.unh.edu).

      Additional Science Brew Cafés will be organized in the future. Please contact the Center for the Environment at http://www.plymouth.edu/center-for-the-environment/or plymouth.edu/cfe for more information.

      PSU and Biederman’s Deli presents Science Brew Café October 15

      October 3rd, 2013 by Lynn

        Sensing New Hampshire’s Streams and Rivers

        PLYMOUTH — Learn about science and meet scientists discussing an issue of local interest and importance in a comfort¬able, community setting! 

        Clear mountain streams flowing from the White Mountains and powerful industrial rivers are hallmarks of New Hampshire’s rich natural beauty and cultural heritage. While our waters are of exceptional quality in most cases, there are still water quality and quantity issues. A group of people interested in water resources have been using water sensors deployed in streams and rivers across New Hampshire to understand water quantity and quality better. This effort, which draws on community volunteer monitors, has been active for one year. After this first year, we can begin to discuss what we are observing, what we have learned, and how it may help water resources management in the region.

        Come grab some food and a drink and be ready to learn and ask questions. This is a casual setting; researchers will speak briefly about their work, but the majority of time will be used for audience question and answers. The event will be held Tuesday, Oct. 15, 6 p.m., Biederman’s Deli & Pub, 83 Main St. Plymouth, and the public is invited.

        Presenters include Dr. Mark Green, Assistant Professor of Hydrology, Plymouth State University, Ashley Hyde, Masters Candidate, Environmental Science and Policy, Errin Volitis, Research Technician, PSU Center for the Environment.

        PSU assists with new Atlantic Coast ecosystem study

        August 24th, 2013 by Lynn

          PSU Research Technician Errin Volitis, left, helps a volunteer scientist set up water sensors in one of 87 rivers involved with the NEST project. COURTESY

          PLYMOUTH — New Hampshire and Maine’s coastal tourism and shellfish industries contribute $400 million annually to the regional economy but the coastal environment is vulnerable to the effects of land development and climate change.

          A team of researchers led by the University of New Hampshire and the University of Maine will conduct a three-year study of the many factors affecting the health of their shared coastal ecosystem.

          This collaboration, funded by a $6 million award from the National Science Foundation, aims to strengthen the scientific basis for decision making for the management of recreational beaches and shellfish harvesting.

          The project, known as the New England Sus- Tainability Consortium, is managed by the EPSCoR programs at UNH and UMaine in partnership with Great Bay Community College, Plymouth State University and Keene State College in New Hampshire, and the College of the Atlantic, University of Southern Maine and University of New England in Maine.

          Citizens interested in participating in the research will have an opportunity to join the New England Stewardship Network which will be developed by UNH Cooperative Extension to connect natural resource organizations, public agencies, scientists and volunteers.

          Coastal water assessment programs currently use the presence of fecal indicator bacteria and, more recently, pathogenic bacteria as risk assessment tools for managing recreational beaches and shellfish harvesting. However, these methods are poor predictors of risk.

          A better understanding of how environmental and climatic conditions affect the dynamics of potential pathogens is essential for informing public resource management decisions.

          For example, water temperature and water runoff from land both influence hazardous bacteria populations, and therefore risk to humans. PSU Research Assistant Professor Doug Earick is participating in the study and says the work has regional importance.

          “We are very excited to continue and expand the work we are doing at PSU around the study of the region’s water resources and impacts humans have on water quality,” Earick said. “This project will provide us with the resources to expand our research into new locations with new partners, but also the opportunity to look beyond the science to think more about how we can engage others in understanding problems and in finding solutions to issues around this critical resource.”

          NEST will select a number of study sites in each state that differ in ecological and social attributes (e.g., closure frequency, watershed loadings, economic impact of coastal tourism or shellfish harvests). Researchers will investigate how natural processes (e.g. water flow in rivers) and human activities (e.g. land development) in coastal watersheds influence bacterial dynamics.

          A major focus of the work is to understand how scientific knowledge is used for making resource management decisions, such as decisions to close shellfish beds to harvesting.

          There is widespread agreement among resource managers and scientists in both states that current beach and shellfish management approaches are flawed; sustainability science research methods offer a means to address these flaws. NEST will use a collaborative process in which resource managers participate in defining problems, identifying research needs, interpreting results and designing solutions.

          “This award is both a testament to the terrific work carried out by the talented researchers at New Hampshire’s colleges and universities, as well as an important look at our state’s coastline and ecosystem,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen (DNH). “New Hampshire’s coastline is critical to our economy and the Granite State’s natural beauty, and this research will play a key role in efforts to protect these areas for future generations.”

          Plymouth State University will participate in the project through expanding a current water research project to the Gulf of Maine, leading workforce development initiatives, and examining inclusive decision-making as a product of ecosystem research. Three of PSU’s faculty (Mark Green, assistant professor of hydrology; Doug Earick, assistant research professor; and Shannon Rogers, assistant professor and ecological economics) and students from the Center for the Environment and Department of Environmental Science and Policy will be involved in the project.

          Green will lead work on the establishment of ten new electrical conductance/ temperature/river stage sites in rivers draining to the Gulf of Maine which will be integrated into the existing NH LoVoTECS program that engages local citizen scientists to help maintain high-frequency water quality sensors that are used to understand the hydrology of the contributing watershed.

          Earick will oversee a series of statewide and regional training and dissemination workshops on the implementation and effectiveness of curricular changes that incorporate civic engagement and student service-learning around the overall scientific scope of the project.

          Rogers will utilize social science approaches to ecosystem research to support more inclusive decision making to produce tangible information that can be compared to management alternatives and used by decision makers to communicate and elect more preferable scenarios.

          The mission of N.H. EPSCoR is to broaden and strengthen New Hampshire’s research capacity and competitiveness through research, education and economic development. It’s critical for the state to broaden and diversify the capacity to conduct research; to support business, industry and society with a workforce educated in science, engineering and mathematics; and to improve communication between scientists and the public.

           

          PSU assists with New Atlantic Coast Ecosystem Study

          August 15th, 2013 by Lynn

            PSU Research Technician Errin Volitis, left, helps volunteer scientist set up water sensors in one of 87 rivers involved with the NEST project. COURTESY

            PLYMOUTH — New Hampshire and Maine’s coastal tourism and shellfish industries contribute $400 million annually to the regional economy but the coastal environment is vulnerable to the effects of land development and climate change.

            A team of researchers led by the University of New Hampshire and the University of Maine will conduct a three year study of the many factors affecting the health of their shared coastal ecosystem. This collaboration, funded by a $6 million award from the National Science Foundation, aims to strengthen the scientific basis for decision making for the management of recreational beaches and shellfish harvesting.

            The project, known as the New England SusTainability Consortium (NEST), is managed by the EPSCoR programs at UNH and UMaine in partnership with Great Bay Community College, Plymouth State University, and Keene State College in New Hampshire, and the College of the Atlantic, University of Southern Maine, and University of New England in Maine. Citizens interested in participating in the research will have an opportunity to join the New England Stewardship Network which will be developed by UNH Cooperative Extension to connect natural resource organizations, public agencies, scientists, and volunteers.

            Coastal water assessment programs currently use the presence of fecal indicator bacteria and, more recently, pathogenic bacteria as risk assessment tools for managing recreational beaches and shellfish harvesting However, these methods are poor predictors of risk. A better understanding of how environmental and climatic conditions affect the dynamics of potential pathogens is essential for informing public resource management decisions. For example, water temperature and water runoff from land both influence hazardous bacteria populations, and therefore risk to humans. PSU Research Assistant Professor Doug Earick is participating in the study and says the work has regional importance.

            “We are very excited to continue and expand the work we are doing at PSU around the study of the region’s water resources and impacts humans have on water quality,” Earick said. “This project will provide us with the resources to expand our research into new locations with new partners, but also the opportunity to look beyond the science to think more about how we can engage others in understanding problems and in finding solutions to issues around this critical resource.”

            NEST will select a number of study sites in each state that differ in ecological and social attributes (e.g., closure frequency, watershed loadings, economic impact of coastal tourism or shellfish harvests). Researchers will investigate how natural processes (e.g. water flow in rivers) and human activities (e.g. land development) in coastal watersheds influence bacterial dynamics. A major focus of the work is to understand how scientific knowledge is used for making resource management decisions, such as decisions to close shellfish beds to harvesting.

            There is widespread agreement among resource managers and scientists in both states that current beach and shellfish management approaches are flawed; sustainability science research methods offer a means to address these flaws. NEST will use a collaborative process in which resource managers participate in defining problems, identifying research needs, interpreting results and designing solutions.

            “This award is both a testament to the terrific work carried out by the talented researchers at New Hampshire’s colleges and universities, as well as an important look at our state’s coastline and ecosystem,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). “New Hampshire’s coastline is critical to our economy and the Granite State’s natural beauty, and this research will play a key role in efforts to protect these areas for future generations.”

            Plymouth State University will participate in the project through expanding a current water research project to the Gulf of Maine, leading workforce development initiatives, and examining inclusive decision-making as a product of ecosystem research. Three of PSU’s faculty (Mark Green, assistant professor of hydrology; Doug Earick, assistant research professor; and Shannon Rogers, assistant professor and ecological economics) and students from the Center for the Environment and Department of Environmental Science and Policy will be involved in the project. Green will lead work on the establishment of ten new electrical conductance/temperature/river stage sites in rivers draining to the Gulf of Maine which will be integrated into the existing NH LoVoTECS program that engages local citizen scientists to help maintain high-frequency water quality sensors that are used to understand the hydrology of the contributing watershed. Earick will oversee a series of statewide and regional training and dissemination workshops on the implementation and effectiveness of curricular changes that incorporate civic engagement and student service-learning around the overall scientific scope of the project. Rogers will utilize social science approaches to ecosystem research to support more inclusive decision-making to produce tangible information that can be compared to management alternatives and used by decision makers to communicate and elect more preferable scenarios.

            The mission of NH EPSCoR is to broaden and strengthen New Hampshire’s research capacity and competitiveness through research, education and economic development. It’s critical for the state to broaden and diversify the capacity to conduct research; to support business, industry and society with a workforce educated in science, engineering and mathematics; and to improve communication between scientists and the public.

            PSU oversees volunteer water sampling

            July 24th, 2013 by Lynn

              Left to right, Plymouth State University Environmental Science and Policy graduate students Ashley Hyde and Matt Bartley collect water samples in the Pemigewasset River in Plymouth July 8. COURTESY PHOTO

              PLYMOUTH–– On July 16, volunteers throughout New Hampshire committed to collecting water samples in the State’s rivers and streams to take a ‘snapshot’ of water quality.

               Plymouth State University oversaw this unique water sampling project with the goal of improving the understanding of New Hampshire’s water resources and providing data to be used by resource managers, state agencies, researchers and educators.

               How does it work? Approximately 50 volunteers throughout New Hampshire committed to collecting water samples that will be sent to PSU and a University of New Hampshire lab for detailed lab analysis of a number of different chemicals in water. PSU is believed to be the first to organize such an effort in New Hampshire; an effort that has involved hours of planning and logistics. Errin Volitis, a research technician with the Center for the Environment at PSU, is helping to coordinate the effort.

              “Each sampling day involves volunteers carefully collecting filtered water samples from their site,” said Volitis. “The samples are then frozen for storage and set to a laboratory for analysis. PSU has provided each volunteer with sampling supplies and instructions, but the volunteers have made the project possible.” 

              Assistant professor of hydrology Mark Green is the researcher who developed the project concept.

              “The idea was to give us three snapshots of NH’s rivers and streams allowing us to better understand the difference between water resources in the State and how these water resources respond to the different types of land use,” Green said. “The data from this project will be extremely valuable in creating new understanding about our water conditions in New Hampshire,” Green said.

              The river sites where water samples are being collected are part of a larger project funded by the National Science Foundation through a cooperative agreement to the New Hampshire Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. Since 2012, state-of-the-art sensors have been recording temperature, electrical conductivity, and river height continuously at each of the water sampling sites. The network has been designed to include all watershed sizes, shapes and land uses, which are geographically dispersed across New Hampshire. The network is coordinated by a group of researchers, staff and students at Plymouth State University and implemented by a broad group of partners, including educators, researchers, government agencies, non-profit organizations and citizen scientists.

              “The water samples will be analyzed to determine basic measures of water quality. We are looking at concentrations of phosphorus, dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen in addition to pH, turbidity or clarity and major ions (Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, Sulfate, Nitrate). These ions are major contributors to electrical conductivity, so they will help us interpret the water electrical conductance data we get from the sensors,” said Green.

              Data from the July 16 sampling project will be analyzed this fall and results shared then. “We can’t thank everyone enough,” said Volitis.

              For more information about this release, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU News Services Mgr., 535 2775 or blyndes@plymouth.edu.

              PSU Oversees Volunteer Water Sampling Project

              July 17th, 2013 by Lynn

                 

                Left to right, Plymouth State University Environmental Science and Policy graduate students Ashley Hyde and Matt Bartley collect water samples in the Pemigewasset River in Plymouth July 8. COURTESY PHOTO

                PLYMOUTH— On July 16, volunteers throughout New Hampshire have committed to collecting water samples in the State’s rivers and streams to take a ‘snapshot’ of water quality.

                Plymouth State University is overseeing this unique water sampling project with the goal of improving the understanding of New Hampshire’s water resources and providing data to be used by resource managers, state agencies, researchers, and educators.

                How does it work? Approximately 50 volunteers throughout New Hampshire have committed to collecting water samples that will be sent to PSU and a University of New Hampshire lab for detailed lab analysis of a number of different chemicals in water. PSU is believed to be the first to organize such an effort in NH – and effort that has involved hours of planning and logistics. Errin Volitis, a research technician with the Center for the Environment at PSU is helping to coordinate the effort.

                “Each sampling day involves volunteers carefully collecting filtered water samples from their site,” said Volitis. “The samples are then frozen for storage and set to a laboratory for analysis. PSU has provided each volunteer with sampling supplies and instructions, but the volunteers have made the project possible.”

                Assistant professor of hydrology Mark Green is the researcher who developed the project concept.

                “The idea was to give us three snapshots of NH’s rivers and streams allowing us to better understand the difference between water resources in the State, and how these water resources respond to the different types of land use,” Green said. “The data from this project will be extremely valuable in creating new understanding about our water conditions in New Hampshire,” Green said.

                The river sites where water samples are being collected are part of a larger project funded by the National Science Foundation through a cooperative agreement to the New Hampshire Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. Since 2012, state-of-the-art sensors have been recording temperature, electrical conductivity, and river height continuously at each of the water sampling sites. The network has been designed to include all watershed sizes, shapes and land uses, which are geographically dispersed across New Hampshire. The network is coordinated by a group of researchers, staff and students at Plymouth State University and implemented by a broad group of partners, including educators, researchers, government agencies, non-profit organizations and citizen scientists.

                “The water samples will be analyzed to determine basic measures of water quality. We are looking at concentrations of phosphorus, dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen in addition to pH, turbidity or clarity, and major ions (Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, Sulfate, Nitrate). These ions are major contributors to electrical conductivity, so they will help us interpret the water electrical conductance data we get from the sensors,” said Green.

                Data from the July 16 sampling project will be analyzed this fall and results shared then. “We can’t thank everyone enough,” said Volitis. For more information about this release, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU News Services Mgr., (603) 535-2775 or blyndes@plymouth.edu.

                What research at Quincy Bog reveals about the past

                December 8th, 2012 by Lynn
                  Quincy Bog

                  A CORE sample is taken from Quincy Bog in Rumney to expose its core. COURTESY

                  RUMNEY — Quincy Bog Natural Area may be best known as a local spot that provides opportunities for recreational walking, observing plants and animals and attending organized programs and walks for residents and visitors in the Pemi-Baker area.

                  But its educational mission extends further with partners. Local teachers run field trips with younger students hoping to earn a Jr. Naturalist Badge. University researchers bring students to apply their academic learning and research techniques to questions in a real-world setting.

                  Dr. Lisa Doner is one such researcher using the Bog as a teaching tool. Doner is a member of the Center for the Environment and the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at Plymouth State University.

                  Recently she led a group of future scientists to conduct field research and collect samples from underneath the ice at Quincy Bog, in the middle of winter. During the following semester, students began a basic analysis on the collected material at the sedimentology lab on the Plymouth State University campus.

                  What secrets are hidden in the layers of mud, sand and clay beneath the Quincy Bog in Rumney? First a couple of definitions to ground the reader. The students used methods from two branches of science called paleoecology and paleolimnology.

                  Paleoecology is the branch of ecology that deals with the interaction between ancient organisms and their environment. Paleolimnology is the study of ancient lakes from their sediment and fossils.

                  The primary method used in this study is analyses of physical characteristics of the sediments underlying the pond at the Quincy Bog. This includes each sample’s density, ratio of mineral to organic material, particle-size and tendency to respond to weak magnetic fields.

                  Two kinds of cores were collected: a surface core, that captures the delicate interface between the water and the sediments, and a long core. “The surface core is important,” said Doner, “because it holds recent sediments. It forms the bridge, in essence, between our written record and the geologic record, since they overlap in time.”

                  She continued to explain that the surface might contain a “record” of recent beaver dam expansion, Quincy Bog Road construction and development projects, and floods that occurred in the last century. The long core, according to Doner, is a sequence of 1-meterlong cores.

                  “The long core provided several surprises,” she said.

                  First, it seems that the pond at the Bog has been around for a very long time and that beaver are not the sole reason for the area being a wetland.

                  Second, the long core contains materials near the bottom that are consistent with glaciers that passed through New Hampshire 12,000 years ago. Therefore Doner surmises the core must contain at least 12,000 years of “geologic memory.

                  The last surprise comes from preliminary analysis of the surface core. “In recent times, perhaps within the last 150 years,” said Doner, “an enormous disturbance, or multiple disturbances, changed the character of the site.”

                  Before she can tell more about these disturbances, Doner needs to learn the age of the sediments involved. With the help of a grant from the Geological Society of America, two undergraduate environmental science students will use lead dating techniques which provide a timeline for events of the past 150 years.

                  “Having information about the age of the sediments will allow us to look at the deposits laid down during 1927, 1936, 1938, 1973 and 1989, to determine if the historically large floods in these years left a mark in the Bog’s sediments,” said Donor.

                  Other possible explanations will be reviewed as well as the cores continue to be studied. Additional dating is underway, using radiocarbon analyses to provide ages covering thousands of years.

                  To read more about this interesting project check out the current volume of Bog Notes at http://www.quincybog.org/bognotes.htm . Quincy Bog volunteer Dan Kemp has prepared a documentary of this activity and it can be viewed on the Quincy Bog website at http://www.quincybog.org/photogallery.htm.

                   

                  New Director at PSUs Center for the Environment

                  August 6th, 2012 by Michael


                    PSU names head of Center for Environment

                    August 5th, 2012 by Michael

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