Students engage with community at sustainability expo

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Nineteen students from instructor Stephanie Velegol’s C E 475 Water Quality Chemistry class presented their water quality monitoring work for Centre County Pennsylvania Senior Environmental Corps (CCPaSEC) through posters at the Campus and Community Sustainability Expo on Monday, April 25.

CCPaSEC is a nonprofit organization with a mission to develop and to support teams of senior citizens who gather and publish data on the quality of water in the streams of Centre County, but with limited resources and funding, some of these sites have become "inactive" and are no longer being monitored.

That’s where students in Velegol’s class stepped in. The class went out and tested inactive sites that are not currently being monitored to see if they should be placed on the active site list again. Not only did they have the opportunity to apply what they learned from the classroom and lab in the field, they also got to support and further the mission of CCPaSEC in its dedication to ensure a safe environment for residents in Centre County.

“Dr. Velegol strongly emphasized sustainability and community engagement,” said Emma Tierney, a junior in civil engineering and applied Spanish, whose team tested the effects of Bellefonte State Fish Hatchery on the water quality of Spring Creek.

Her team collected samples from the sites, added sulfuric acid to preserve the samples, and tested for nitrates, total nitrogen, phosphate and chemical oxygen demand in the lab.

The data they gathered showed that there is a potential need for monitoring since nitrates and total nitrogen slightly increased after the Bellefonte State Fish Hatchery. They also recommended further investigation regarding why phosphates are higher before the fish hatchery, and if there is a reason for concern upstream from where the tests were conducted. The students compared their results to state and national standards and found that the water is safe.

Michele Halsell, director for Sustainable Communities Collaborative from the Sustainability Institute, spoke highly about Velegol and her students’ involvement.

“This is an example of the type of engaged scholarship that President Baron is encouraging at Penn State,” Halsell said. “We appreciate Dr. Velegol’s leadership in promoting engaged scholarship and in introducing sustainability concepts to her students in the field of civil engineering.”

The Expo was hosted by the Sustainability Institute at the State College Borough Building and featured projects completed by more than 220 Penn State students as a part of the Sustainable Communities Collaborative and Sustainable Food Systems Program. A wide range of topics were presented at the expo, including sustainable food systems, natural resources management, employee engagement, eco-tourism, water stewardship, recycling and alternative fuel vehicles.

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Last Updated May 04, 2016