Delaware River Basin work earns SU professor $486,000 grant
A Shippensburg University professor received one of 10 grants announced yesterday by the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University for projects aimed at protecting and restoring water quality in the Delaware River Watershed.
Dr. Claire Jantz, professor of geography/earth science and director of Shippensburg University’s Center for Land Use and Sustainability (CLUS), will lead a team of scientists from SU and the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts who will connect models of land cover change, climate change, hydrology and tree species to address the impact of future development and environmental change on the watershed.
The three-year project directed by Jantz received a $486,000 grant, which will be provided by the Delaware Watershed Research Fund and administered by the Academy of Natural Sciences. The fund provided a total of $4 million in grants for 10 projects tackling such issues as municipal and industrial wastewater’s impact on fish, the effect of future development on communities along the Delaware River and farmland management that protects nearby water sources.
The new project builds on one that Jantz currently is leading at SU, supported by a $1 million grant from the William Penn Foundation, to develop a land use mapping, modeling and monitoring system for the Delaware River Basin.
“Our current work has focused on creating forecasts of future land use in the Delaware River Basin,” Jantz said. “We quickly realized that it is difficult to create a realistic vision of land use in the basin in 2070 without fully considering climate change impacts at the same time. This was a major gap in our research that we aim to address in this new project.”
The primary question to be addressed by the new research, Jantz said, is how forest ecosystems and hydrologic processes in the basin will be affected by climate change and land cover change.
Other SU faculty and staff on the project are Drs. Timothy Hawkins, Christopher Woltemade and Scott Drzyzga, professors in the geography/earth science department, and CLUS staff members Alfonso Yáñez and Antonia Price.
“Each team member brings a unique expertise to the project: land use/land cover change mapping and modeling, hydroclimatology, climate change, watershed rainfall-runoff and flood modeling, biodiversity conservation, geotechnology and project management,” Jantz said. “It is exciting to be able to work on a project of this significance with such a diverse and talented team.”
The research will benefit conservation practitioners working across multiple watersheds within the basin, Jantz said, helping to identify areas potentially critical for regulating water flows, maintaining climate refuges for certain tree species or maintaining resilience against pathogens. “The data, analyses and outreach that we propose with this project will enable future planning efforts to incorporate these critical issues,” she said.
The Delaware River Watershed covers more than 13,500 square miles in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and New York. In addition to being a major source of drinking water for 15 million people, the watershed supports an array of water-related businesses valued at $25 billion per year and is home to a variety of animals and plants.
The 10 newly funded projects “will answer questions that will help us better understand how to protect and restore water quality, especially in the Delaware Watershed,” said Roland Wall, senior director for environmental initiatives for the Academy of Natural Sciences. “The results of these studies can be applied to other watersheds around the country.”
SU’s Center for Land Use and Sustainability supports science-based solutions to interdisciplinary sustainability challenges. Its goal is to become a nationally recognized interdisciplinary center that leverages the expertise of faculty, staff and students to promote sustainable land use, economic development and communities at local, regional and global scales.
The center has more than 15 affiliated scientists and two full-time staff with expertise in geographic information systems; global systems navigation satellite; physical and environmental sciences; land use planning, economics and transportation; applied history and archaeology; sustainable business practices; community sustainability; and grant writing and project management. For more information, visit centerforlanduse.org.
Founded in 1812, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is a leading natural history museum dedicated to advancing research, education and public engagement in biodiversity and environmental science.
The Delaware Watershed Research Fund was established with the support of the William Penn Foundation. Created in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, the foundation is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the greater Philadelphia region through efforts that increase educational opportunities for children from low-income families, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creativity that enhances civic life and advance philanthropy in the Philadelphia area. In partnership with others, the foundation works to advance opportunity, ensure sustainability and enable effective solutions. Since its inception, the foundation has made nearly 10,000 grants totaling more than $1.6 billion. The foundation’s assets exceeded $2.3 billion as of March 31, 2015.