Penn State to lead Atlantic Slope Consortium with a $6 million grant from U.S. EPA

May 03, 2001

University Park, Pa. --- With the aid of a $6 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, researchers from Penn Stateís Environmental Resources Research Institute will lead a consortium in an integrated assessment of the watersheds and estuaries across the Atlantic Slope, an area that includes New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina.

Natural scientists and social managers will join forces with environmental managers from the region to develop, test, and apply a set of biological, chemical, physical and socioeconomic indictors to measure the health of wetlands, streams, rivers and estuaries in the region. Participants in the consortium include the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, East Carolina University, Environmental Law Institute and FTN Associates.

The Atlantic Slope Consortium is one of only four programs funded nationally by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencyís STAR Grants Program.

Dr. Robert P. Brooks, director of the Penn State Cooperative Wetlands Center, is the consortium project director. He says, ìWe have assembled a talented team of researchers to develop the indicators necessary to conduct this integrated assessment. We are excited about the opportunities to collaborate across so many disciplines and to apply these assessment tools across a very large geographic area.

Fifteen Penn State researchers are scheduled to participate. Environmental Resources Research Institute participants include Dr. Denice Wardrop, assistant director of the Cooperative Wetlands Center and research associate; Dr. James Shortle, professor of agricultural economics and rural sociology; Dr. Robert O'Connor, assistant professor of political science; and Egide Nizeyimana, ERRI senior research associate.

The population explosion along the coasts of the United States has put enormous pressure on estuarine ecosystems and their supporting watersheds. In order to develop the sound science required to monitor these important areas, STAR developed the Estuarine and Great Lakes (EaGLe) program to conduct assessments along the Great Lakes, East Coast, West Coast and Gulf Coast.

In what they say is a unique approach, the Consortium members will assess small watersheds and estuarine segments throughout the Delaware, Susquehanna-Chesapeake, and Ablemarle-Pamlico basins. Brooks explains that these units make ecological sense, but they are also sized to facilitate management decisions at the local level. Using geographic information systems, the researchers will select indicators that will help link stressors, sources, and solutions between upstream watersheds and downstream estuaries. For effective management, it is critical to understand and document linkages between upstream watersheds and downstream estuaries in order to protect, manage and restore receiving waters, estuaries and bays. Indicators selected by this approach should help scientists, managers, and policy-makers document trends, prioritize issues and target critical management activities.
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The inaugural meeting of the Atlantic Slope Consortium will be held May 8-9, 2001 at the Penn Stater, University Park, Pa. Consortium members will gather to begin coordinating their project. The projectís progress can be tracked soon through the PASDA web site www.pasda.psu.edu.

EDITORS: Dr. Brooks is at 814-863-1596 or rpb2@psu.edu by email. A map showing the area under study is available from Patricia Craig 814-863-0037 or plc103@psu.edu by email.

Penn State

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