Monday, December 26, 2022

Westminster Students Present Data Findings From DeSale Passive Mine Drainage Treatment Excursion

December Catalyst newsletter from the Butler County-based Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition features an overview of a water sampling project at the DeSale Passive Mine Water Drainage Treatment project and an introduction of the Coalition’s newest intern Krista White.

De Sale Water Testing Project

On November 10, a projector buzzed as images of students knee-deep in vegetation and at the edges of orange-tinged water flashed across a large screen. 

A nervous excitement permeated the air as a group of undergraduate students from Westminster College made their way to the front of the meeting room at Jennings Environmental Education Center in Slippery Rock, Butler County.

Dressed in their business casual finest and surrounded by nature displays and images from across the Western Pennsylvania region, the young adults lined up across the front of the room to face a group of representatives from the Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition. 

Their mission - to present findings from a semester-long Environmental Analysis class project. 

The class, and project, were led by Dr. Helen Boylan, professor, and director of the Center for the Environment at Westminster College

The project started with a field sampling excursion led by Boylan, Wil Taylor, park manager of Jennings Environmental Education Center, and Cliff Denholm, senior environmental scientist from BioMost Inc. and representative for the nonprofit Stream Restoration Incorporated (SRI). Also in attendance was Krista White, Slippery Rock University Graduate Student and SRI intern.

The project’s purpose was to sample and test the water quality from the De Sale site in Venango Township, and to determine if the current site’s water treatment systems were still in functioning order. 

The site houses a forebay, vertical flow ponds, a settling pond/wetland complex, and a horizontal flow limestone bed. 

The students used the collected water samples in their school lab to identify iron, manganese, aluminum, and PH levels. 

The presentation allowed the students to talk about their experience from field to lab. Presenting in a panel-style discussion, each student took turns highlighting areas of learning. 

Areas highlighted included: a background in Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) and its impact across the state, an understanding of the type of AMD passive treatments located on the site, field data and lab data findings from the water samples taken at the site, and what type of lab processes used for individual tests.

After the presentation, students fielded questions from the audience, which ranged from an interest in a fluorescence spectroscopy test that was utilized in the lab to results on how the students felt the experience fits into their future career goals. 

Matthew Kane, environmental science sophomore at Westminster, said that the fieldwork was fun and that he realized how much teamwork is involved in field and lab work. 

“Doing the labs and this exercise builds on the knowledge and experience that you can push forward into a career, future class, or even to help someone else complete a project,” he said. 

Kane added that the presentation experience gave him insight into how future oral presentations may go for him and that he appreciated the experience.

Students also presented their findings at Westminster College’s 2022 Student Symposium on the Environment on Dec. 1st. 

Look for an upcoming Student Symposium article in the January Catalyst issue! 

Fall Intern Krista White

Krista White started as an intern with Stream Restoration Incorporated in August. White is a graduate student at Slippery Rock University working on her second master’s degree in Environmental Education.

She also has an M.S. in Park and Resource Management from SRU. 

White comes to SRI with a journalism and nonprofit background. She worked as an education funding writer and editor for over 13 years and has written in other genres for nationwide newsletters, newspapers, blogs, and online magazines. 

Her undergraduate degree in English is from the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Following her true passion – to work in environmental conservation – White began her graduate school journey at SRU to help merge her knowledge in communications with a strong background in environmental issues. 

“I see a strong need to build better bridges of understanding between what is happening in the fields of science and what the layperson understands,” she said. “I hope to understand how to make those gaps in knowledge smaller through the work I take on.”

White also served as an intern for the Shenango River Watchers, a nonprofit working to restore and protect the environmental, scenic, and recreational attributes of the Shenango River Watershed. 

During her time there, she helped find grant opportunities and write grant proposals, created a yearly grant calendar for the organization, spearheaded the beginning development of the organization’s five-year strategic plan, wrote content for the organization’s website, and created and implemented a macroinvertebrate curriculum geared toward middle school students.

Before joining SRI, she also served as a Land Management Intern at The Villa Farm, a 759-acre organic farm owned by the Sisters of the Humility of Mary. While there, White learned about sustainable agriculture methods and environmental systems. 

This hands-on experience allowed her to get involved with routine farm tasks, help with soil management and preparation, understand crop production from beginning to end, maintain trails on the land, and even drive tractors! 

In addition, White worked with visiting school and camp groups to provide farm-based environmental education.

“My time at SRI has made me realize how easy it is for people to live with a huge environmental issue right in their backyards and not even realize the magnitude of the problem,” said White. “All these silent heroes are here doing amazing things to help keep our environment safe and free of pollutants. It has become my mission to build community awareness about environmental issues and how people can become advocates for their own outdoor spaces.”

Snowflake Fun!

Don’t forget to connect-the-dots in this month’s Snowflake Fun!

Click Here to read the entire CatalystClick Here to sign up for your own copy.

For more information on programs, projects, upcoming events and how you can get involved, visit the Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition website.  Follow them on FacebookClick Here to sign up to sign up for regular updates.

The Butler County-based Coalition was established in 1994 to restore land, water and wildlife resources in the Slippery Rock Watershed.

[Posted: December 26, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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