Penn State Erie's Sea Grant To Focus On Ecology, Economic Development

December 17, 1997

University Park, Pa. -- The Philadelphia docks notwithstanding, Pennsylvanians do not usually think of themselves as seafaring folk, but the recent awarding of a Sea Grant to Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, may give people reason to reconsider.

The 43 miles of Lake Erie coastline in Pennsylvania, the Presque Isle peninsula, Presque Isle Bay and the 511-square-mile Lake Erie watershed are the focus of the $480,000 grant forming the Pennsylvania Sea Grant Coherent Area Plan. Previously, Pennsylvania did not have Sea Grant status.

The U.S. Department of Commerce established Sea Grants in 1966 to support fisheries and marine resources in much the same way that Land Grants were used to establish research in agriculture and mining. While most Sea Grant awards have gone to coastal states, all of the other states bordering the Great Lakes have received Sea Grants in the past. Pennsylvania now joins Ohio, New York and Michigan in research on Lake Erie.

"Penn State Erie's Sea Grant will allow us to monitor the ecology of the coast and Presque Isle as well as to promote environmentally friendly manufacturing and development," says Dr. Robert Light, associate dean and associate provost. Light will be director of the Sea Grant for the first two years.

As a Coherent Area Plan, the initial focus of the Sea Grant will be on extension, education and communications, rather than research. Studies will include non-point source pollution of Presque Isle Bay and the invasion of non-native plants in Presque Isle State Park. An evaluation of the effect of increased clarity in the Bay is also planned.

"Presque Isle is a unique environment in Pennsylvania," says Light, who also has a Ph.D. in ecology. "There are myriads of plants and animals on the Isle and in the Bay and at least 130 plants and animals of special concern inhabit the area. Presque Isle Park is also one of the most visited parks in the country."

The area surrounding the shoreline and Presque Isle, the Lake Erie watershed, is densely developed. While both wastewater and rainfall runoff are now generally routed to sewage treatment plants, this was not always the case. Past runoff has affected the coastal water and the bay.

Environmentally friendly development of manufacturing in the area and a study of the Park's uses are also planned under the grant. The park sees heavy traffic for an ecologically fragile environment. A study of who uses the park, where they come from and what they are looking for will help plan for future use. Tied in with all these studies is a component intended to educate the public about the lake, Presque Isle and the coastal area.

The Sea Grant initiative received another $100,000 from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Governor's Office, and $50,000 from Penn State. The Behrend College plans to appoint an expert in coastal environments and an expert in coastal economic development to round out the staff of the sea grant and to head the studies.

EDITORS: Dr. Light may be reached at (814) 898-6160.

For other Penn State news, please visit our Home Page on the Web at: Also browse this release at EurekAlert!, a comprehensive news server for up-to-date research in science, medicine,and engineering at

Penn State

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