an e-newsletter for students and alumni of saint michael's biology department

Vermont EPSCoR Awards Grant for Study of Pollution Sources
By Declan McCabe and Buff Lindau

Vermont EPSCoR, which is funded through the National Science Foundation, recently awarded funding for a project involving UVM, Middlebury College, Saint Michael’s College, and Vermont’s Department of Environmental Conservation. Declan McCabe, assistant professor of biology at Saint Michael's, collaborated with Sallie Sheldon (Middlebury College) and others to design an outreach project that is at once research and pedagogical in nature. The sampling design will be implemented by high school teams and college students. Stream-water quality and macroinvertebrate data sets will be shared and compared online with data from a Champlain-basin wide network of schools with the overarching goal of better delineation of pollution sources that lead to plankton blooms in Lake Champlain.

The entire project will bring $6.7 million in funds to the State of Vermont over three years. The outreach portion of the funding will support high school sampling teams, and undergraduate research at Vermont’s baccalaureate institutions, including funding for five Saint Michael's College biology interns in the summer of 2008. The overall project goal is to use new and existing data from a range of academic, public, and private sources to generate a model of pollutant movement in the Champlain Basin.

The Saint Michael's students involved in this project have been awarded $4,000 summer research grants from Vermont EPSCoR.  They will work on the Streams Project, specifically, on how land use affects phosphorous and biological diversity in the waters that feed Lake Champlain. Professor McCabe will direct their studies. His research focuses on macroinvertebrates in streams, which will be the area of study for the five students. He is receiving $1,000 from the same grant, for supplies and overhead for each of his student advisees.

“The group will be comparing phosphorous output from paved urban sites, agricultural sites, and forested sites,” Professor McCabe said. They will also examine macroinvertebrate diversity among the three site types, with the goal of “evaluating macroinvertebrate indices that best differentiate the three site types.”

Student grant recipients are Jacqueline Cote, a junior from Auburn, N.H., Brian Cunningham, a sophomore from Quincy, Mass., Erin Doyle, a junior from Penfield, N.Y., Ian Myers, a junior from Plattsburgh, N.Y., and Whitney Hine, a junior from Southbury, Conn.

The work of these students will contribute to that of a team of Vermont researchers working on the Streams Project. Together they will be sampling rivers and streams of the Lake Champlain watershed over the course of three years and analyzing for phosphorus, bacteria and invertebrates, all indicators of water quality. The data collected will be analyzed to test hypotheses about the sources of pollution.

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