If you ask T.J. Pennino, ’08, what he did during his summer vacation, you’re likely to get a wry grin and the question “What vacation?” Logging more than 126 hours along the Allegheny River, Pennino, an intern in the Environmental Science Program, and Dr. Ted Georgian, a professor in the Department of Biology, spent several weeks in July and August creating the University’s first hydrology observatory.
Previously, the Environmental Science Program relied on computer simulations to study groundwater pollutants. Now with the aid of a recent grant award of $126,850 from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation in Buffalo, St. Bonaventure students have an opportunity to learn from hands-on experiences studying groundwater and other aspects of the hydrology of the Allegheny River basin.
The Wendt grant has funded an integrated field station, or hydrology observatory, that will eventually employ weather instruments, groundwater monitoring wells, flow gauges, storm water sampling devices, instruments for physical and chemical analysis of water quality in the Allegheny River and its tributaries, and geophysical equipment to assist in noninvasive site characterization.
Georgian, author of the grant, said the new equipment will be used for demonstrations and laboratory exercises, and is also sophisticated enough to support original research projects, both as laboratory assignments for classes and work done for independent study and senior projects.
“With this equipment, the faculty and students of St. Bonaventure are able to trace the pathways by which a variety of pollutants from our local drainage basin reach the Allegheny River,” said Georgian. The observatory will provide the University’s environmental science majors with direct, hands-on experience with up-to-date groundwater instrumentation and procedures, he said.
Georgian also noted that the observatory would be used in the training of environmental science majors completing discipline-related internships.
“The hydrology observatory gives us the facilities to train these interns in state-of-the-art techniques in hydrology and water quality assessment,” he said. “This sort of research-level experience equips students for graduate study in a way that mere classroom study cannot, and it has the potential to excite a passion for the scientific enterprise in our students.”
Pennino, with his summer internship now a thing of the past, said “I could not have done my internship if it was not for the grant. Dr. Georgian and I had a great time working together, and we accomplished a lot (in terms of) his summer goals and my personal learning experiences.”
The training of science interns meshes with the goals of the Journey Project, funded by $2.5 million in Lilly Endowment grants, which encourages the development of a sense of vocation in Bonaventure graduates.
“St. Bonaventure will also continue to put our scientific expertise to use in collaboration with the Pfeiffer Nature Center in Portville,” said Georgian. “A number of SBU students have already served as interns at the nature center, some using Journey funds, and an environmental science major is planning to use equipment purchased by this grant to analyze sedimentation of a headwater tributary of the Allegheny River that flows through the Nature Center property.”
The Environmental Science Program at St. Bonaventure is a multidisciplinary program combining aspects of biology, chemistry, geology, and physics. About 93 students, or over 4 percent of the entire student body, are majoring in these four disciplines.
“One of St. Bonaventure’s major resource is the natural environment surrounding our campus, something that’s worth studying and preserving,” said Dr. Georgian.
Because of its strong commitment to a vibrant liberal arts education firmly grounded in the sciences, the University has undertaken an expansion and renovation of its science instruction facility. The William F. Walsh Science Center and renovated DeLaRoche Hall will house state-of-the-art computer science, laboratory and classroom space, biology labs, organic and general chemistry labs, a Natural World lab, a 150-seat indoor amphitheater, and faculty offices integrated with lab space for better student-teacher accessibility.
Building and equipping these new science facilities on campus is one of the highest priority in the University’s current Anniversary Campaign for St. Bonaventure.