Susquehanna offers rare research opportunities for students
by Kevin Jones
Susquehanna University first year ecology major David Huntzberry has a research opportunity that not many students have. He was given the chance to work as an assistant at the Freshwater Research Initiative. Huntzberry explained he became involved in the Initiative because of his childhood interest in studying water and the chance to further his young career.
“I always enjoyed being around water growing up, and felt it was a good opportunity to further my career,” Huntzberry said.
Freshwater Research Initiative leader Jonathan Niles went into detail about the origins of the Initiative. He explained that the Fresh Water Research Initiative began in May of 2014 thanks to a grant of $2.25 million from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. Niles joined the Initiative because it allowed him to do research he was interested in and allowed him to teach undergraduates, which is something he was particularly interested in.
Niles explained that the Initiative is involved a variety of research projects and works in collaboration with state and federal agencies as well as other colleges. He continued that a lot of the research goes to organizations that are involved in water quality, fish management, and stream classifications as well as other environmental policies. Niles feels that there is not one specific threat to the Susquehanna River, but several threats that steam from human activities.
“The Susquehanna and its tributaries do not suffer from one threat, but many invasive species, pollution issues, and climate change,” Niles said.
Niles believes that the health of local streams and the surrounding wildlife is important because people get their drinking water from these local water systems and if the streams are not heathy the water will have to be treated and cleaned which takes a significant amount of resources and manpower. He also thinks that people like to live near heathy bodies of water that they can use for recreational activities like swimming, and boating. Huntzberry explained that he learned a lot about insects that live in the area during his work for the Initiative.
“I never knew there were so many bugs in the Susquehanna and how important they are,” Huntzberry said.
Huntzberry said that what he liked most about his work at the Freshwater Research Initiative was learning how to identify the different kinds of bugs and their importance to river ecology.