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Academy to Provide Watershed Guidance

PHILADELPHIA, May 30, 2013

Watershed Research  

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University has received a major grant from the William Penn Foundation to support watershed protection and restoration in the Delaware watershed that is intended to coordinate and demonstrate a region-wide impact on improving water quality.

The Academy of Natural Sciences has been performing watershed and aquatic science research since the 1940s. For the past year, Academy scientists have provided scientific guidance to the William Penn Foundation as it began plans to focus its environmental funding on watershed protection and restoration. The new one-year grant award of $880,000 will take this advisory role to a new level.

The grant heralds an unusual degree of collaboration between the Academy and the Foundation to guide the scientific measurement and evaluation of conservation efforts across a wide region – and to ensure the Foundation’s other grants are coordinated with one another and with the larger context of regional watershed conservation activities. The Academy’s guidance will therefore influence the activities of other organizations working across the Delaware Valley region to protect and restore water quality.

“It’s exciting to have the opportunity to work with an expansive, coordinated effort like this to protect the Delaware basin – with a particular focus on water quality,” said George W. Gephart, Jr., president and CEO of the Academy of Natural Sciences. “The Academy has a long history in the science of protecting watersheds, rivers and streams to keep high water quality in the area.”

The Academy’s role in the coming year will be to take baseline measurements of environmental conditions in designated sites across the Delaware basin. As other organizations work with the William Penn Foundation to secure funding for their own conservation programs at specific sites, the Academy will serve in an outreach and mentoring role to guide the development of these projects. Academy scientists will also coordinate a process to identify research questions that might emerge from the funded projects. For example, some research questions might compare the effectiveness of different restoration methods.

Ultimately, the Academy’s scientific expertise and measurements will guide coordinated, region-wide work to address major environmental stressors in the watershed, demonstrate the effectiveness of interventions, and ensure these efforts can be replicated at other sites.

These activities will also entail active collaboration among conservation groups and scientists in the coming year. To encourage this process, the Academy will host regular monthly seminars with Drexel University faculty to encourage interdisciplinary collaborations among researchers and students to address watershed conservation.

“With the launch of new grantmaking guidelines, the Foundation is focused more than ever on supporting environmental work that is rooted in data and strong science,” said Laura Sparks, Vice President for Philanthropic Programs at the William Penn Foundation. “The Academy’s deep experience and national recognition for hydrological research make it an invaluable partner in water quality monitoring and analysis. Together, we will focus on impacts that are both meaningful and measurable, helping stakeholders across the Delaware River Basin to better understand, adapt, and innovate when it comes to a shared mission for watershed protection.”

The Foundation selected the Academy for this key scientific role on the basis of the Academy’s strong history of watershed research. The Academy’s Patrick Center for Environmental Research has a history of more than 70 years of national leadership in using science to inform the protection of environmental quality in both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. The Academy’s watershed research uses field and laboratory studies to analyze and simulate the functioning of aquatic systems, integrating mapping with hydrologic, bioenergetic, ecological and other methods of measurement and analysis at multiple spatial scales.

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