Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Using GIS: Changes In The Prairie At Jennings Environmental Center Over Time In Butler County

The following story appeared in the November Catalyst newsletter from the Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition based in Butler County--

Some of the best Geographic Information Systems (GIS) practices in our community today were showcased October 18th and 19th at the 13th Annual Northwest PA GIS Conference at Clarion University.
Many GIS applications used for data gathering, analyzing, and sharing were discussed amongst dozens of GIS professionals and academics in an exciting environment for networking and education.
Several GIS applications explored at the conference included drone deployment, crowd-sourcing techniques, water monitoring systems, evaluating bluff recession rates, GIS legacy parcel digitization, European bison reintroduction in central eastern Europe, PA Great Lakes water and land technical resources, and more.
Shaun Busler, a GIS Professional and SRWC participant, presented a “Review of Relict Prairie at Jennings Environmental Center Over Time Utilizing Open Source GIS Software.”
In his presentation, Shaun shared the history of JEEC, the nearby Old Stone House, the role of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and the Jennings relict prairie.
Shaun discussed how the relict prairie has been expanded to about 12 acres to create additional habitat for the massasauga rattlesnake, a PA endangered species. The massasauga rattlesnake is known to be a timid, shy snake, growing to an average adult length of about two feet.
Shaun shared results of a WPC telemetry study, suggesting between 90 and 100 massasauga rattlesnakes currently live in the Jennings prairie ecosystem.
He also shared information on the symbiotic relationship between the terrestrial crayfish and the massasauga, which hibernates in crayfish burrows often seen along the walking trails of the prairie.
Shaun also shared information about common limitations of aerial photos, and how the process of orthorectification can remedy such distortions.
Another part of Shaun’s presentation focused on the maintenance of the prairie, which includes prescribed fires. Over time woody vegetation has encroached upon the relict prairie.
The prairie needs to be actively maintained in order to preserve this unique ecosystem.
The first prescribed fire was originally conducted by the WPC in 1959; nowadays the prairie is split into quads and burned on a two-year rotational basis. The idea behind controlled burning is to simulate what was once a normal part of life for ecosystems like prairies.
Ecosystems native to the Midwest depend on periodic fire events to rejuvenate growth and ensure long-term survival. At Jennings, periodic fires slow the growth of woody plants and aid the growth of native grasses and wildflowers.
One such flower the Jennings prairie is famous for is the magnificent blazing star. This bright purple flower is more commonly found around the Great Lakes and on the coastal plain of the eastern United States.
But every late July and early August its 4 to 6-foot tall stalks burst with a bright brilliant purple during the hot and dry midsummer of western PA.
Shaun enjoyed sharing his GIS data analysis and interesting information about one of his favorite outdoor places to visit, and was equally thankful to learn more about others’ GIS applications in their respective lines of work.
Excellent job to all who provided a poster and/or a presentation!
For more information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition website.
Thinking Of Gifts?
Visit Clean Creek Pottery to help mine reclamation efforts.
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Call For Participants! Westminster College Student Symposium On The Environment Dec. 6, Lawrence County

The following story appeared in the November Catalyst newsletter from the Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition based in Butler County--

Westminster College in New Wilmington, Lawrence County will host its annual Student Symposium on the Environment on December 6 at the McKelvey Campus Center from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m.
A networking and poster session will begin at 5:30 in the Witherspoon Rooms with oral presentations to begin at 7:00 in the Mueller Theater.
The Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition is once again partnering with Westminster College on the Symposium.
The purpose of this event is to highlight environmental study, research, artistic expression, and service work being conducted by students in the region.
Students from all disciplines and ranging from high school through graduate school are encouraged to participate. Research posters, art work, oral presentations, and even performances are welcome.
This is a really nice, positive, friendly event with interesting research and presentations. The students always do a good job!
New this year: The Student Symposium on the Environment is partnering with Westminster’s Professional Development Center!
Presenting students can submit resumes to be screened for environmental internships or job opportunities and they will have the opportunity to network with potential employers during the  symposium!
Call For Participants!
If you are a student in an environmental field of study, you won’t want to miss this excellent opportunity to potentially gain employment or an internship!
Call for participants is available online. Remember, oral presentations, poster presentations, and creative works are all welcome!
Abstracts may now be submitted online. The deadline to register is November 14.
For more information, email Cliff Denholm at: or Dr. Helen Boylan at:
If you are free that night, please come out and support the students!!! All are welcome to attend this very enjoyable evening!
For more information, visit Westminster College’s Student Symposium on the Environment webpage.
For more information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition website.
Thinking Of Gifts?
Visit Clean Creek Pottery to help mine reclamation efforts.
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November Catalyst Newsletter Now Available From Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition

The November issue of The Catalyst newsletter is now available from Butler County-based Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition featuring articles on--
-- The KIDS Catalyst: November Word Search
-- Westminster Students Present Water Sampling Findings At Erico Bridge Treatment System
-- Click Here to sign up for your own copy.
The Catalyst newsletter is distributed to over 1,200 individuals in over a dozen countries including: Brazil, Peru, South Korea, Mexico, England, Wales, Venezuela, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Germany.
For more information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition website.
Thinking Of Gifts?
Visit Clean Creek Pottery to help mine reclamation efforts.
(Photo: Wil Taylor, Jennings Environmental Education Center, instructing Westminster College students on the use of field alkalinity test kits at the Erico Bridge Passive System.)

Bay Journal: Restored Peters Creek In Lancaster County Lures Trout, Threatened Chesapeake Logperch

By: Donna Morelli, Chesapeake Bay Journal

A small fish that once lived in freshwater streams throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed got a lucky break in a Pennsylvania creek this year.
When Donegal Trout Unlimited restored the Lancaster County creek to protect trout and other sport fish, the rarely seen Chesapeake logperch showed up for the party.
“We build it and they come,” said Greg Wilson, a longtime member of Donegal Trout Unlimited. “When they electrofished the creek after restoration, there were lots of trout and lots of logperch.”
A few months after planting the last tree on the restored banks of Peters Creek, a second electrofishing trip-- which samples fish populations by stunning them with a mild electric charge-- turned up about nine of the little olive fish with orange bands. Prior to the restoration, sampling produced no logperch at all.
The Chesapeake logperch, with an average length of just 4 inches, once swam in the streams of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, including a few direct tributaries to the Bay.
Now, the logperch is listed as threatened in Maryland and Pennsylvania and is being evaluated for national protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Chesapeake logperch disappeared from the Potomac River basin by the 1930s. Their range in the Susquehanna watershed has decreased but persisted.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they were once found in the river as far north as Columbia, PA, but since 1842 they haven’t been found upriver of the Conowingo Pond, a reservoir formed between the Holtwood and Conowingo dams.
Most of the logperch found in both Pennsylvania and Maryland are in the lower reaches of streams that empty into the Conowingo Pond.
A Fish and Wildlife report cites water pollution and loss of habitat as reasons for the decline. Sediment is particularly harmful to logperch habitat.
Using its conical nose, the fish roots around stones on stream bottoms to jostle out a meal of invertebrates. Silt that settles into the cobble smothers the small living spaces of the logperch’s food.
The species also faces threats from an increasing number of voracious, invasive species: the northern snakehead and flathead catfish.
“We would like to develop a conservation strategy for this fish, expand its range and strengthen the population in the hopes that it doesn’t have to be listed as an endangered species,” said Jennifer Bukowski, a fisheries biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service in State College, PA. “The Chesapeake logperch falls into a category of species being considered for listing but for which there is little information on status and threats.”
The irony of finding the fish in Lancaster County’s sediment-laden streams isn’t lost on Bukowski or her colleagues. They are the same streams targeted for Bay cleanup efforts because of the county’s disproportionate contribution to the state’s nutrient load to the Chesapeake Bay.
Even so, a small number of streams still contain sections with clean water and cobblestone bottoms that attract logperch.
Techniques employed along those streams for reducing water pollution-- such as fencing livestock out of streams and installing practices on farms to stem the flow of sediment and manure-- also improve habitat for both logperch and trout.
“What’s good for the logperch is good for the trout,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Adam Smith, who has worked on stream restorations in Lancaster County since the 1990s. “They like clean water, no sediment and cover, the same as trout.”
Listing the logperch under the U.S. Endangered Species Act would place restrictions on disturbing streams, even for restoration purposes.
But its listing is far from assured. There are more than 300 species of plants and animals being considered for protection under the act that are awaiting decisions by 2023. The lengthy process starts with filing a petition to suggest the species be listed. The next step is to gather data to defend the petition.
Bukowski said a few studies “are in the works” and that the Fish and Wildlife Service is conserving logperch habitat with the hope that additional protection won’t be needed.
The agency is poised to restore more stream habitat in Lancaster County with partners like the state’s Fish and Boat Commission, Trout Unlimited and the county’s Conservation District.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Conservation District recently finished a large restoration project in the Octoraro watershed, where Amish farmer L. Michael Kaufman asked for help to stabilize the eroding banks of a stream.
“When we first got there, there was not much habitat,” Smith said. “The stream had lots of sediment from lack of pasture management. But when we explained to Mr. Kauffman about the logperch, he said, ‘hey, I can do better than this.’ Private landowners are key if we are to restore habitat for the Chesapeake logperch.”
The joint project restored 3,900-linear feet of streambank by regrading it to a level similar to the surrounding land and creating a natural floodplain. Logs and stones were used to create pools and riffles, which oxygenate the water and emulate natural streamflow.
Mud sills, long log structures along the edges of the stream bed, were installed to provide cover for fish and reinforce the banks. Native trees, shrubs and grasses have been planted along the banks to filter runoff and help hold soil in place during storms.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is partnering with Donegal Trout Unlimited on more of these projects, including one on Fishing Creek in southern Lancaster County.
The Fishing Creek project was originally focused on improving trout habitat, but Smith said that it will be reviewed for ways to make a comfortable niche in the ecosystem for the logperch.
“Implementation so far has been good for the trout and the logperch,” Smith said. “But if we had to choose, we would give the logperch some priority.”
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(Reprinted from the Chesapeake Bay Journal.)

25 PA Teachers Receive PPL Foundation Grants To Support Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Programs

Climate science research, 3D coral reefs, solar-powered robots and urban gardening experiments are just some of the innovative and forward-thinking projects students will be tackling throughout eastern and central Pennsylvania as a result of PPL Foundation’s Empowering Educators Grants.
The PPL Foundation Wednesday announced grants to 25 middle and high school teachers to support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities in their classrooms. Each teacher receives a grant of $1,000 to spend on equipment and materials for projects.
“We’re excited to be able to support teachers who work every day to inspire students through innovative and meaningful classroom experiences,” said Lissette Santana, chief operating officer of the PPL Foundation. “With most jobs requiring a basic understanding of math and technology, making these subjects interesting for students today has the potential to shape their future careers.”
Since the grant program’s inception in 2003, PPL and now The PPL Foundation have awarded more than $230,000 to more than 165 teachers.
The following teachers are this year’s grant recipients--
-- Jennifer Fisher, Central Columbia Middle School, Bloomsburg, Pa., for equipment to test and analyze solar power panels and determine their effectiveness.
-- Tarra Conrad, Cumberland Valley High School, Mechanicsburg, Pa., for equipment needed to teach students about renewable energy sources such as solar power.
-- Sasha Roble, Central Dauphin High School, Harrisburg, Pa., for the supplies needed for students to develop, test and analyze a vertical gardening system.
-- Janet Caley, Conestoga Christian School, Morgantown, Pa., for the supplies needed for special education students to build a solar-powered hydraulic robot, teaching them hands-on lessons in engineering and technology.
-- Matthew Roth, Dieruff High School, Allentown, Pa., for robotics equipment that will enhance the hands-on learning capabilities of the school’s current STEM lab.
-- Jennifer Trout, Ephrata Middle School, Ephrata, Pa., to fund the devices and applications needed to enhance the curriculum and engage students through the use of augmented reality.
-- Gregory Mazurek, Hazleton Academy of Science, Drums, Pa., for supplies needed to support a school-wide science fair.
-- Diane Mantek, Jersey Shore Elementary School, Jersey Shore, Pa., for the supplies needed to teach computer coding basics, which hone students’ problem-solving skills and ability to think using applied math, logic, algorithms and science.
-- Cindylee Hart, John Harris High School, Harrisburg, Pa., to support a student-led initiative to design and build a community courtyard at the school.
-- Joann Donati, L.B. Morris Elementary School, Jim Thorpe, Pa., to help fund the school’s annual Family STEM Night, which engages the entire school community in hands-on science, math and technology activities.
-- Gregory Zahm, Liberty High School, Bethlehem, Pa., for equipment needed for students to research, build and interpret a 3-D model of the Great Barrier Reef.
-- Sara Schmader, Lincoln Jackson Academy, Scranton, Pa., to supply the school with a robotics building system for all students.
-- Sarah Davis, Mid Valley Secondary Center, Throop, Pa., to support the development of a hands-on fluid power class that will teach students how pneumatics produce power.
-- Mark Kreisher, Muncy Elementary School, Muncy, Pa., to fund the modeling software needed for students to build 3D printers.
-- Sylvia Gordon, Raub Middle School, Allentown, Pa., for equipment that will allow students to monitor, test and improve sound quality for the student-run news station.
-- Tracee Myer and Amy Weir, Robert B. Deibler Elementary School, Perkasie, Pa., for the supplies needed to create a Fab Lab for the school’s 450 students.
-- Kaye Schwenk, Schuylkill Haven Area High School, Schuylkill Haven, Pa., to support the implementation of the Trout in the Classroom Program, which fosters student awareness of coldwater conservation and encourages participation in coldwater resource projects and recreation programs.
-- Allison Moyer, South Side Elementary, Harrisburg, Pa., to support development of a class in which students will learn about weather tools and prediction patterns to help them research and generate potential climate change solutions.
-- Ann Marie Rogers, St. Clare's School, Scranton, Pa., for the equipment to build a weather station to allow elementary school students to learn about and explore weather.
-- Elise Lytz, St. Ignatius Loyola Regional School, West Lawn, Pa., for a 3D printer that will be used to enhance science lessons by turning abstract concepts into real-world objects.
-- Matthew Gilger, St. Joseph School, Danville, Pa., for camera equipment and video editing software that allows students to hone their technology skills while producing content for the student-run news station.
-- Jillian McDermott, Summit School of the Poconos, East Stroudsburg, Pa., for supplies to develop a robotics lab in which students have the opportunity to explore a variety of engineering and technology systems.
-- Brad Newlin, Warrior Run High School, Turbotville, Pa., to fund Arduino boards that will advance the skills of students in the school’s computer science class.
-- Angela Grove, West Perry Middle School, Elliottsburg, Pa., to support the development of a makerspace for the school’s 600 students.
-- Vito Pasone Jr., Wilkes-Barre Area School District STEM Academy, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., to provide supplies to the school’s environmental science students to test soil and water quality in the Susquehanna River basin.
For more information on this program, visit the PPL Foundation’s Empowering Educators Grants webpage.

Centre County, Weis Markets, Trex Company Honor 5th Grade Student Poster Contest Winners On America Recycles Day, Nov. 15

The Centre County Recycling & Refuse Authority, Weis Markets and Trex Company, Inc. Wednesday announced the winners of the “Healthy Kids, Healthy Earth” student poster contest.  
In September, the Centre County Recycling & Refuse Authority, along with partners Weis Markets and Trex Company, Inc. kicked off a poster contest open to all 5th grade students in Centre County.  
The students were asked to design a poster around the theme “Healthy Kids, Healthy Earth.”  Hundreds of entries were received, and on October 15 eighteen posters, created by 20 artists were selected as the winners.
Congratulations to the following students for their winning posters--
-- Julia Bigger; Gray’s Woods Elementary School
-- Kaden Clark; Port Matilda Elementary School
-- Keira Clarkson; Benner Elementary School
-- Cailin Dorefice; Park Forest Elementary School
-- Nora Eppley; Howard Elementary School
-- Emily Frank; Penns Valley Intermediate School
-- Kaycie Hughes; Philipsburg-Osceola Middle School
-- Olivia Jackson; Corl Street Elementary School
-- Adison Jarrett; Philipsburg-Osceola Middle School
-- Alabama Jukes; Wingate Elementary School
-- Ashley Kim; Radio Park Elementary School
-- Xinran (Maggie) Li; Easterly Parkway Elementary School
-- Nash McMonagle; Centre Learning Community Charter School
-- Paige Moriarta; Houserville Elementary School
-- Jazlyn Myers; Houserville Elementary School
-- Ali Schirf; Gray’s Woods Elementary School
-- Aislynn Timblin; Pleasant Gap Elementary School
-- Nate Tranell; Mount Nittany Elementary School
-- Olivia Vaughn; Mountain Top Area Elementary School
-- Makenna Williams; Marion Walker Elementary School
2019 Calendar
The 18 winning posters will be made into a 2019 “Healthy Kids, Healthy Earth” wall calendar that will be distributed to all 5th grade students in Centre County this December.  The calendars will also be available free of charge at our five local Weis Markets stores and around the community.
Each student will receive a $25.00 Weis Market gift card, a framed picture of their winning poster and a copy of the 2019 calendar at the ceremony.
Awards Ceremony
An Awards Ceremony honoring the students will be held November 15, America Recycles Day, from Noon to 1:00 p.m. at the Weis Market store located on Buckaroo Lane in Bellefonte.  
Local press is invited to attend.  Students will be available for interview and photo opportunities.
For additional information, please contact Amy Schirf at 814-238-7005, or send email to:
For more information on programs, initiatives, waste recycling and safe disposal options and upcoming events, visit the Centre County Recycling & Refuse Authority website.
(Photo: Winning poster by Ali Schirf, Gray’s Woods Elementary School.)
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