Creating Watershed Ambassadors
In the wake of Millersville University’s recent acquisition of Creek Lodge and adjacent woodlot, a picturesque cabin nestled next to the Conestoga River and east of Pucillo Gymnasium, Dr. John Wallace, professor of biology and director of the Center for Environmental Sciences (MUCES) at Millersville recognized an opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Nanette-Marcum-Dietrich, associate professor of educational foundations and their students. Last spring, Wallace and Marcum-Dietrich presented a proposal to convert an outbuilding on the Creek Lodge property into a Watershed Education Training institute (WETi). The institute has partnered with the Lancaster Conservancy and Stroud Water Research Center to create and conduct watershed educational programs and student training.
Currently, the professors and Wallace’s students, Frank Herr and Joe Receveur are focused on obtaining funding to modify the building in an attempt to equip and prepare the facility as an outdoor laboratory on Millersville’s campus near Creek Lodge.
“Our goal is to provide an experiential educational opportunity to train citizen scientist educators,” explained Wallace. “What that means is that we will be using Education Foundation and Science and Technology students to work together in the development of programs designed to train K-12 students and the general public on how to systematically collect physical/chemical/biological data from the adjacent spring-fed stream to the institute, the Conestoga River and other nearby watersheds. Essentially, these programs will allow young people to contribute valuable scientific data towards understanding watershed conservation and management.”
“Fresh water is our planet’s most precious natural resource,”said Marcum-Dietrich. “Protecting our planet’s water is a local and global responsibility. WETi brings together many local partners who are committed to watershed conservation. This cooperation with local experts provides the MU community with the opportunity to learn about watersheds issues and to share this knowledge with the wider community.”
“ The WETi will serve as a source for internship, community service and scientific
research experience for our students. The institute will also serve as a facility to allow both the Lancaster Conservancy and Stroud Water Research Center to work with Millersville faculty and students to raise awareness and advocacy for watershed conservation. By collaborating and using state and federal granting agencies to get seed money, we will be a larger force than working alone,” said Wallace.
“WETi is a science education center for students who desire training as a field naturalist or environmental interpreter,” said Marcum-Dietrich. “Through the use of experiential learning practices at WETi, students will learn how to use hands-on science experiences to engage students and community members in environmental conservation.”
Future projects for WETi include a Spring 2016 reforestation effort to reforest the area stripped of trees from the parking lot construction in the MU Biological Preserve. This effort was made possible through the donation of 300 native trees from Stroud Water Research Center and their care by the local Trout Unlimited Chapter in Donegal. The riparian forest was lost in this section of the preserve and is currently suffering from massive erosion gullies formed from rain events since being deforested. In a short time, the collaboration WETi has formed with Stroud will be forged to regenerate a riparian forest lost and contribute to the campus-wide sustainability efforts. Wallace said, ” We have plans to establish real-time monitoring stations on streams and Conservancy preserves to provide a network of data collection that will help training future citizen science educators.”
“ We want to create Watershed Ambassadors in our students, and these ambassadors will train tomorrow’s watershed stewards” said Wallace.