Environment
8:00 am
Fri January 6, 2012

Powdermill Grabs $730K Grant

The Carnegie Museum's Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystems and Powdermill Nature Reserve has been awarded a $730,000 dollar grant by the Richard King Mellon Foundation. The grant will be used to expand the Center and the Laurel Highlands based Reserve, which just celebrated 50 years of research in 2011.

John Wenzel was brought in about a year ago to direct the biodiversity center and Powdermill, and to lay the plans for this next big step. He said that the urgency of the creation of the center came in no small part from the rapid development of the Marcellus Shale.

"We'll have a special public education effort at the main museum in Pittsburgh," on shale development, he said. "In addition, we have several other elements we're developing as part of this grant. There's a scientific effort, which would be monitoring the water quality and streams and ecosystems in the area of Marcellus development. And then there's another information effort. Using modern Geographical Information Systems, we'll weave together both our own research, and research done by others in this area so that you can map out exactly what's happening."

Wenzel said that the center will establish a website with the Marcellus research, but, unlike fractracker.org, an existing online collection of Marcellus information, it will not include data from public observers. Instead, information will be limited to peer-reviewed science, he said.

The grant will also go toward expanding Powdermill's avian bioacoustics research work, particularly looking at bird flight at night to avoid collision with windmills. Examining tree succession — how forests evolve — is another area that the center will focus on with the grant money, Wenzel said. He added that the center, which will partner with universities along the Appalachian corridor, will make a special effort to attract researchers from Latin America.

The full interview with John Wenzel by The Allegheny Fron't Jennifer Szweda Jordan appears here.