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Lehigh researchers awarded $825,000 EPA grant to study effect of solar UV radiation on rivers

Don Morris, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, and a group of distinguished Lehigh colleagues have been awarded a three-year, $825,000 EPA grant to study environmental factors regulating the exposure of streams and rivers to solar UV radiation. According to Morris, an aquatic ecosystem ecologist, it is the first major study to investigate the interactive effects of landscape, climate and UV radiation on river ecosystems.

The grant was awarded through the STAR (Science To Achieve Results) Program, part of the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research.

"Basic research is more of the goal with the EPA STAR Program," said Morris. "However, the results of the project may ultimately be used to shape environmental regulations."

The highly competitive STAR Program funds research grants and graduate fellowships in numerous environmental science and engineering disciplines, and utilizes the nation’s best scientists and engineers.

The study will focus on how current watershed and river properties interact with climate and solar radiation to determine current UV exposure, and how living organisms have adapted in order to survive this UV exposure. The Lehigh River watershed in northeastern Pennsylvania will be the main site.

"Lehigh has world-class researchers in the study of UV radiation," said Morris. "Lehigh is the only place that can research UV-related problems using a multidisciplinary approach and do it all in-house." Elsewhere, explained Morris, proposals are multi-institutional.

In addition to Morris, the multidisciplinary team includes, Craig Williamson, professor of earth and environmental sciences; Frank Pazzaglia, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences; Rick Weisman, professor of civil engineering, and Bruce Hargreaves, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences. Three graduate students and a technician will join them in conducting the study.

Most of the field work associated with the project will be done from April through September, when solar UV radiation is most important. During that time, the team will collect data, then stockpile and archive samples and data. During the remainder of the year, experiments will be conducted in the laboratory using artificial UV light. Archived samples and data will be analyzed and interpreted.

Findings from the study also will be published in professional journals and publications, and used in presentations at conferences and meetings.


Posted on Monday, April 08, 2002

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