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Duquesne Professors Conduct Marcellus Shale Environmental Study

A Duquesne University group led by Dr. John Stolz, director of the DU Center for Environmental Research and Education (CERE), will participate in an environmental study of the Tenmile Creek Watershed in Washington County to serve as baseline information in advance of Marcellus Shale drilling in the area.

To this point, no water and environmental assessments have been conducted in this area in advance of drilling that removes natural gas from shale formations, thus no claims of fouled water and environmental impact from the drilling can be easily verified, Stolz explained. The Heinz Endowments provided a grant of nearly $2 million to a local academic consortium, including an $87,320 grant to Duquesne, to complete the study.

“The Endowments’ grant will fund surveys of wildlife and other data collection that establishes a baseline of ecosystem health. This will enable more accurate evaluation of changes in conditions when natural gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale formation moves into full production,” said Caren Glotfelty, director of the Endowments’ Environment Program.

“We are interested in doing an assessment of Tenmile Creek Watershed in areas where there has been drilling and where drilling hasn’t yet started,” Stolz said. “Will there be an impact if it is drilled? If so, what is that impact?”

Stolz will study select microbes. Colleagues in the Department of Biological Sciences, Dr. Brady Porter will examine fish, and Drs. Kyle Selcer and Sarah Woodley will inventory salamanders. The field studies will be conducted at three points in time— low, high and normal flow periods—on this Monongahela River tributary.

Their information will become part of a larger database. Collaborators from the University of Pittsburgh will maintain a public website for the information at www.fractracker.org, and those from CMU will conduct elemental analysis.

The grant will fund the study through June 2011.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.