Plymouth State University Collaborates in Statewide Environmental Planning and Protection Effort

March 26th, 2012 by blyndes


Plymouth, N.H. –Population and land use changes in the Granite State in recent decades make research into what those changes mean vitally important to ensuring future generations will enjoy the same quality of life New Hampshire residents do today.

Thanks to a five-year $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the University of New Hampshire, Dartmouth College, St. Anselm College and Plymouth State University will lead a statewide research and education project known as Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) that will bring together researchers from around the state to better understand the environment and the complex interactions of the climate-ecological-human system as well as provide critical information for state decision makers. The project also provides new education and training opportunities in science, engineering, mathematics and technology that is necessary for a highly skilled State

Water testing in the Israel River, Lancaster, NH

workforce that advances economic development and employment.

The EPSCoR award was announced March 26 by Gov. John Lynch and UNH President Mark Huddleston in a joint news conference where the focus was on continuing to develop cutting-edge technologies and training a workforce to propel the state forward in technology-based economic development.

Ecosystems in New Hampshire and the surrounding northern forest region provide a wide range of services that are critical to the region’s inhabitants. Forests and aquatic ecosystems provide clean water, biomass for timber and energy production, carbon storage, climate regulation, nutrient regulation, and opportunities for recreation and aesthetic renewal.  Ensuring that these benefits can be sustained into the future will require improved understanding of basic ecosystem processes and their interactions with changes in climate and land management and a new generation of engineers and scientists educated and trained in this field. Technologies developed as a result of research conducted will be commercialized to spur innovation.

An innovative team of researchers from UNH, Dartmouth College, St. Anselm College and Plymouth State University will bring together expertise from the physical, biological and social sciences. According to Assistant Professor Mark Green of PSU’s Center for the Environment, environmental data will be collected from a statewide network of land-based and aquatic sensors, an aircraft remote sensing system to measure changes in the forest cover, and measurements made by citizen scientists and students monitoring water quantity and quality.

“A team from the Center for the Environment will be leading the development of a network of 100 water quality sensors around New Hampshire streams and rivers,” Green said. “The sensors will measure water temperature, specific electrical conductivity and water height at a 5-minute frequency to provide us information about the hydrology of watersheds around the State. Data from these sensors will also allow us to understand the impact of human activities (for example, land use or road salt application) on the hydrology and water quality across many streams and rivers in the State. Data from the sensors will also be used by our colleagues at UNH to check the accuracy of statewide water quality models which will be used to test the potential impact of future changes in our watersheds. This environmental data will be combined with data about housing and demographics; models based on this information will help policy makers determine the tradeoffs among different land uses, and will inform the development of strategies to adapt to the challenges of changes in land use and climate variability. Partnerships with industry will focus on research and development of new technologies in the areas of energy, biomass, and sensor development.”

The project, administered by the NH EPSCoR program at UNH and advised by the Statewide EPSCoR Committee, includes a substantive workforce development effort with partners at Keene State College, White Mountains Community College, and Great Bay Community College, with science education and research experiences for K-12 teachers and students, and community college faculty and students. Students will receive scholarships to science camp, internships for undergraduate research and transfer incentives to complete a four-year college degree. PSU’s Douglas Earick, Assistant Research Professor in the Center for the Environment, will be involved with using the data collected to assist local schools in environmental education.

“Through Doug, we will be involved in the dissemination of the science through teacher summer institutes and through the development of partnerships with other 2-year/4-year institutions, public/private and formal/non-formal education providers throughout the state,” added Green.

“The data set is going to be used in educating students about water issues in the State and in developing skills analyzing large data sets,” Green noted. “The data set produced by the sensors will be quite large, which affords the opportunity to teach high school and college students how to handle and extract information from such large data sets. Developing the ability to handle large data sets and perform relatively simple computation will translate to many non-environmental disciplines. In this sense, our project aims to improve technical training for NH students.”

For more information about this release, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU News Services Mgr., or call (603) 535-2775.