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Grant Puts Duquesne Students in Midst of Brownfields, Mine Drainage, Other Health Issues

A second grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will provide Duquesne University students with hands-on learning while tackling widespread, complex problems: brownfield remediation, mine and Marcellus Shale drainage, and feral cat colonies.

Drs. Nancy Trun and Sarah Woodley, associate professors of biology, received a $503,270 award from the NSF to refine Trun's extremely effective teaching methods. Their grant was one of only 20 Phase II NSF grants awarded nationwide to receive more than $500,000.

This award expands upon a previous $205,000 NSF grant that has produced outstanding critical thinking skills and knowledge retention rates in students while training them in laboratory and technical writing skills, and producing a national model for service learning

"Linking classroom work with real-world activities, Duquesne is taking the lead in tapping the resources of universities and their students to improve local communities through Application Based Service Learning," said Dr. David W. Seybert, dean of the University's Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences.

With the current grant, Trun and Woodley will work with nine faculty members and their students at eight institutions across the Northeast. The collaborators will tackle three project areas. Importantly, the students' data and insights could help communities.

Feral Cats
Trun and her students will continue to tackle health and environmental questions concerning colonies of wild cats and to work with the Homeless Cat Management Team, a nonprofit spearheaded by Trun and biology faculty Dr. Lisa Ludvico and Dr. Becky Morrow, who also is a veterinarian.

Mine Drainage
Woodley and partners at the University of Akron, Mount Aloysius College and Lock Haven University will examine mine and Marcellus Shale drainage issues, incorporating geology, microbiology, water quality and physiology factors.

"We'll see how much information we can gather: what chemicals are in these areas, microbiological components and water quality will be assessed," Trun said. "Nursing and other undergraduate disciplines will be involved in other parts of the research once we have this information."

Brownfield Remediation
As former industrial sites are resurrected through brownfield redevelopments nationwide, students will conduct ground-level work leading to remediation.

Working with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) architects and State University of New York faculty and students, they will determine what chemicals the soil contains and how to make the land sustainable again.

Duquesne and its students will work with communities affected by brownfields to sample and analyze chemicals, and to determine what steps are needed to make these former industrial sites safe and viable-all while engaging with local community groups.

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.