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


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

Research Grants Awarded to Melanie Perello

April 20th, 2015 by June

Meleanie Perello fieldMelanie Perello, a second-year graduate student in PSU’s Environmental Science and Policy program, has been awarded research grants from the Geological Society of America (GSA) and Sigma Xi. She is also the inaugural recipient of the International Phycological Society’s (IPC) Paul C. Silva grant. These grants are supporting Perello’s Master of Science thesis research which focuses on the effects of land use and climate on water quality in Squam and Ossipee Lakes in New Hampshire. The GSA research grants program provides partial support of master’s and doctoral thesis research in the geological sciences for graduate students enrolled in universities in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America, and Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society is the international honor society of science and engineering.

Perello’s research is a collaborative project with the Center for the Environment, the Squam Lakes Association, and the Green Mountain Conservation Group. Her project has two parts: sediment core analyses and water monitoring. For the sediment analyses, she has taken multiple short cores from both lakes and is using geochemistry as well as particle size and diatom community assemblages to provide a long-term record (over 200 years) of water quality and environmental conditions in the lakes. For the monitoring, she has been collecting water samples for the past year and has set up a in-situ mooring with temperature loggers at the deepest basin of each lake.

So far, Perello’s research results show fluctuations in sediment geochemistry and particle size over time that indicates watershed changes are recorded in the lake sediments and can be connected with surrounding land use and climatic events. The water monitoring results reveal seasonal fluctuations in chemistry with strong influences of storm events throughout the past year.

Perello’s project will be concluding in the summer of 2015 with analysis of the sediment cores and diatoms in these sediments. When combined with water monitoring records, her work will help provide the lake associations with a history of their lake and suggestions for the future management of the lakes.

Lisa Doner, assistant professor of Environmental Science and Policy, serves as Perello’s research advisor.

Shannon Rogers is Speaker at Newfound Business Summit

April 15th, 2015 by June
Diverse and engaged area business leaders ready for the Newfound Business Summit

Diverse and engaged area business leaders ready for the Newfound Business Summit

Newfound Business Summit Sets Stage for Economic Master Plan

By Boyd Smith, Newfound Lake Region Association

On Monday April 13, 2015 more than forty attendees generated a soft roar of energetic conversation in the usually quiet Minot-Sleeper Library as they waited for the first Newfound Business Summit to begin. The purpose of the Summit was to enhance partnerships between the business, academic and non-profit communities to build a stronger and more sustainable environment and economy.

Boyd Smith, Director of the Newfound Lake Region Association, started the evening with a round of introductions and audience input on what brought them to the Summit. Concerns included lack of cell phone coverage in Bristol, the need for year-round economic activity, and the desire for more social unity. Smith recognized these challenges and added, “The rich natural and human resources of the area, such as the ability to connect Bristol’s Central Square with Profile Falls and its network of trails and rivers, create huge potential for thoughtful and sustained growth.”

Paul Fraser, Chairman of the Bristol Economic Development Task Force, started the discussion by introducing the Task Force and its mission. Fraser stated, “The Task Force sees Bristol as poised for vibrant economic growth. Interest in businesses “making it in Bristol” has never been higher. The Select Board and Task Force have worked hard to lay the foundation for sustainable growth with interest and input from a variety of stake holders.” Paul then directed the audience to a local business survey to provide ideas for Bristol’s future.

Scott Stephens, Director of the newly-formed Central NH Chamber of Commerce, shared his insightful and heartfelt vision of what makes our region successful, and our potential for even more success. Stephens emphasized, “We need to develop critical infrastructure such as cell phone coverage, broadband, and health and educational services, and then continually market our community to convince families and businesses that already know about us to settle in the area.”

Dr. Shannon Rogers, Assistant Professor of Ecological Economics at Plymouth State University, provided a powerful addition to the mix – the concept of ecosystem services and how they benefit society. “Think of ecosystem services as Nature providing for our well being” said Dr. Rogers. “Forests give us timber, recreation and clean water; the soil provides us with our food; and the ecosystem as a whole surrounds us with aesthetic beauty and a sense of place.”

Dr. Charlie French, Associate Professor for Community & Economic Development at UNH Cooperative Extension wrapped up the presentations with some hard data on the local economy. Dr. French said, “The Newfound Region has a wealth of natural assets that help to drive the local economy, but much of our purchasing is done outside of the area. If the region is to effectively leverage its assets, it is important to understand the opportunities to expand existing, and to develop new, businesses.” He continued by adding “Economic data and analysis can help identify the leverage points, but it is people coming together around a common vision and rolling up their sleeves to do the work that achieves the possibilities.”

Audience members then asked questions and voiced opinions about next steps. Shawn Lagueux mentioned the perennial challenge of balancing the status quo with economic growth, noting a certain resistance to change in the Bristol community. Geoff Sewake, Grafton County Extension Field Specialist for Economic Development, noted the need for a place for people to gather, citing the example of how Littleton, NH installed pianos around the town and how this has created a quirky yet powerful sense of community. Sewake said “A sense of place and ability to live close to a vital downtown is an excellent way to build a stronger community.” Bristol resident Victor Field noted that small successes lead to larger ones, and that using the data provided by the panelists is an important part of crafting a successful vision for growth.

Smith concluded, “The Summit was potentially transformative. Ideas, passion, energy, and experience are powerful change agents. I look forward to being a part of creating a master plan for balanced and sustainable economic growth in the Newfound area.”

The Summit was a collaborative effort sponsored by the Bristol Economic Development Task Force, the Central NH Chamber of Commerce, and the Newfound Lake Region Association.

Art from Environmental Data

April 15th, 2015 by June
Watersheds #1, laser print. Artists: Patricia Brousseau, Adam Finkelman, and Scott Bailey

Watersheds #1, laser print. Artists: Patricia Brousseau, Adam Finkelman, and Scott Bailey

The Lamson Learning Commons at PSU is hosting an exhibit, Art from Environmental Data, from April 4th – June 26th, 2015. The exhibit is located on the main level of Lamson. Please join us for the opening reception and gallery talk on Tuesday, April 21st, 4-6 pm. The exhibit is coordinated by Mark Green and PSU’s Center for the Environment. The curator of the exhibit is Jen Green, digital librarian at Lamson Learning Commons.

Mark Green noted, “As scientists, we produce and process data that helps us interpret and quantify the world around us.  At times we realize that the data visualizations we produce might be interesting to non-scientists. By embracing these times and sharing our work with the broader world, we can improve our skill at engaging and informing the general public in scientific discovery.  Aesthetics play a major role in this engagement. In this exhibit, we’re showing the types of images that arise from our environmental research, and in some cases, going above and beyond what we would normally do to emphasize the artistic aspect of our data. In both cases, we are providing our perspective as scientists. We are presenting to you the perspective of scientists and no one else. This exhibit is an opportunity to show the aesthetics that come from or can be produced from our scientific processes.”

Mark Green is a PSU professor and hydrologist, focused on forests and their role in regulating water movement and water quality. He and his students study the hydrologic cycle using water tracing techniques and data mining of large public databases. He teaches graduate classes in data visualization, forest ecology, and watershed hydrology. A major aspect of Mark’s work is serving as a research hydrologist with the Northern Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service. This exhibit is in collaboration with and features the work of colleagues and students representing Plymouth State University and the Northern Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service.

Jonathon Loos Awarded American Rivers’ Lapham Fellowship

March 25th, 2015 by June

LoosFellowship315 006Jonathon Loos, a graduate student in Plymouth State University’s Master of Science program in Environmental Science and Policy and the Center for the Environment, has been awarded the American Rivers’ Anthony A. Lapham River Conservation Fellowship. This fellowship honors the memory of Anthony A. Lapham who served for many years on the board of American Rivers, including as its Chairman.

The Lapham Fellowship provides an excellent professional development opportunity for talented post-graduates pursuing careers as leaders in the field of conservation advocacy. One recipient is selected every two years out of a national pool of applicants. The goals of the Lapham Fellowship Program are to develop the next generation of conservation leaders, and to generate research products that directly support the mission and goals of American Rivers. Lapham Fellows focus on an applied research project that will make a tangible contribution to American River’s mission, develop advocacy skills and create a network of professional contacts.

During this two-year fellowship, Loos will work in Washington, DC with the American Rivers Director of Restoration Policy to carry out a collaborative project focused within the Connecticut River watershed and contribute to current policy initiatives within the American Rivers organization. His proposed research project will examine the ecological and social benefits that come from intact floodplain ecosystems, and will generate frameworks for including local values in management of floodplains at local and regional community levels.

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

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