One of the outdoor “classrooms” at Millersville University was recently upgraded to improve the experience for students. Dr. John Wallace, professor of biology says the improvements at Roddy Pond brought multiple benefits. “From an educational perspective, the restoration has improved the pond in terms of classroom and independent research use. Biology, earth science, chemistry and geography classes use the pond for various water, organismal and biomonitoring activities.”
The Roddy Pond restoration and riparian reforestation was a multi-agency and multi- MU department collaboration to improve both the ecological and educational environment for students.
The pond was overtaken by several plants that were both native, i.e., poison ivy and invasive Phragmites australis or Common Reeds (ecologically harmful). In addition, the pond was prone to developing anoxic or low oxygen levels making it difficult to maintain fish populations.
Dredging occurred in May 2022 to physically remove those harmful plant species and to correct the oxygenation of the pond by installing aeration pumps in the center of the pond. These pumps create air bubbles, circulates water and promotes natural decomposition of organic materials in the pond such as leaves and twigs. Ultimately, the aeration of the pond creates a fish friendly habitat.
In October 2022 in collaboration with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, the Lancaster Clean Water Fund, MU Facilities and the MU Watershed Education Training Institute, Wallace worked with nearly 60 MU student, faculty and staff volunteers to plant approximately 220 trees and herbaceous plants around the pond to serve as biological filters. These new plants will help to manage the stormwater runoff into the pond from nearby roads and grass surfaces.
“By reducing the volume of water and toxins that may wash in from impervious surfaces such as roadways and parking lots, properly established riparian buffers help to fulfill state and federal MS4 permit requirements managing stormwater as well as improve water quality,” says Wallace.
What’s next? So that the area is a useable research facility, the previous loading dock will be reinstalled, an additional loading dock will be placed on the east side of the pond, and a walking path will be installed. A small outdoor “patio” will be constructed and large stones will be placed to create an outdoor field classroom. A shed will be built near the pond for faculty to store instruments and equipment for research and teaching. Future improvements in this area may include a pavilion with picnic tables, electricity and WIFI connections.
The overall project had several sources of funding. A donor funded the pond restoration and improvements around the pond. MU WETI established a collaboration with the Lancaster office of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay to provide the 200+ trees representing 33 different species as well as funding provided by a Lancaster Clean Water Grant to cover the cost for approximately 10 different species of wetland herbaceous plants.