PSU hosts N.H. EPSCoR Summer Teacher Conference

August 21st, 2014 by Lynn

    “It’s an experiment that relates to air pollution, measuring particulate matter,” said Deshaies, who earned a Bachelor’s in meteorology in 2009 from PSU and a Master’s in science education in 2011. “I will present these results to my students and have them try a similar experiment, to see if the same thing occurs in Belmont.”

    PSU Research Assistant Professor Doug Earick, the conference organizer, said more than 40 Granite State middle, high school and college science teachers are honing their classroom skills with a series of mid-August workshops and hands-on training in using large amounts of data.

    “This is a different way of doing science,” Earick said. “Science is moving in a different direction; the focus is on data literacy, how to collect large amounts of data, analyze it using computer software and ask the question, ‘what does that data mean?’ Does it lead to other questions? That’s what scientists have to do and that’s how we want students to start thinking.”

    The teacher training conference is part of NH EPSCoR, which seeks to advance New Hampshire’s competitiveness in science and engineering by strategically investing in research infrastructure; promoting education in STEM; and partnering with businesses that enhance job creation and economic development.

    Deshaies, who is researching temperature inversions in other areas of the state through a National Science Foundation grant, said his students have an opportunity to study science in a way that that was unheard of a generation ago.

    “My students will be given the same equipment, and they will have to come up with a way to collect the data by doing a similar experiment,” he said.

    Which is exactly what Earick says EPSCoR project goals are.

    “We hope the teachers here can take this data back to their classrooms and have their students to work with it; we’re hoping the students start to ask questions about what the data means,” Earick added.

    [View the original Record Enterprise page here.]

    New watershed survey shows NH residents willing to pay higher fees to improve water quality

    May 1st, 2014 by Lynn

      Big Squam Lake from Mt. Morgan. Courtesy Photo

      PLYMOUTH — A new survey shows many Granite Staters and residents of the Piscataqua Watershed are concerned about the level of pollution in our water resources, and would be willing to pay higher fees to ensure water quality is improved.

      The report from researchers at Plymouth State University’s Center for the Environment and the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership (PREP) at the University of New Hampshire, “New Hampshire’s Citizens Value and Use Water in Many Ways: A Preliminary Report of the New Hampshire and Piscataqua Region Water and Watershed Survey,” was compiled from more than 600 responses from randomly sampled New Hampshire residents throughout the State and Maine residents living in the Piscataqua Region. Respondents answered questions about water resource use and value.

      The survey, led by Shannon Rogers, Assistant Professor at PSU, and Jill Farrell, Community Impact Manager from PREP, indicates that 90 percent of New Hampshire respondents are concerned with the level of pollution in local streams, rivers, lakes, and bays; 80 percent understand the connection between clean water resources and economic stability of their community and 70 percent agree that they would be willing to pay higher water and sewer fees to improve the cleanliness of the lakes, rivers, streams, and bays in their community.

      “These findings indicate that New Hampshire residents understand the importance of clean water in our state,” said Rogers. “The fact that such a high percentage of people are willing to pay more to protect surface water quality is an important finding to water resource managers.”

      The survey also shows that 58 percent of New Hampshire residents realize their own actions on their property can have an impact on overall water in the community, and 83 percent agree that they would be willing to take action to reduce storm water pollution, especially if it would help reduce water and sewer bills.

      The authors of the report hope the results are utilized by researchers, resource managers, municipal decision-makers, educators and local, state and federal regulators.

      “It is our hope that this survey will serve as a stepping-stone to further investigation and implementation of actions,” said Rogers and Farrell. “We will be working on several initiatives, including outreach/education, indicators, and geographic visualization of select results.”

      Funding for the report was provided by Plymouth State University’s College of Graduate Studies and the Center for the Environment, and NH EPSCoR’s Ecosystems and Society Project supported by the National Science Foundation. Funding was provided by PREP as well. PREP is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program, a joint program between local, state and federal agencies established under the Clean Water Act. PREP is supported in part by an EPA matching grant and is housed within the University of New Hampshire School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering.

      Specific findings for the oversample of the PREP region, which includes 10 Maine communities, are contained in the report as well. The complete report and survey can be found at: https://www.plymouth.edu/center-for-the-environment/files/2013/01/Water-Survey-Report-March-2014.pdf.

      An executive summary is also available: https://www.plymouth.edu/center-for-the-environment/files/2013/01/Water-Survey-Report-Exec-Summary-March-2014.pdf.

      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.

         

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