Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs has partnered with the Stream + Wetlands Foundation (SWF) to advance student research in watershed and wetlands programs through a gift of $141,000 over four-and-a-half years to support graduate student research.
Vincent Messerly, president of SWF and an Ohio University graduate, contacted the Voinovich School about the opportunity to collaborate and fund research for two graduate students.
“The Voinovich School integrates scholarship and hands-on learning to solve environmental problems,” Messerly said. “This support will increase funding for talented students to gain practical experience with environmental research projects under the direction of faculty and staff.”
The SWF acquires land to construct restoration and rehabilitation projects for wetlands and streams. They continue to provide long-term maintenance for the completed projects. Once complete, the SWF sells the mitigation credits to fulfill requirements placed upon US Army Corps of Engineer’s permitees to offset unavoidable wetland losses permitted under the Clean Water Act Section 404 program and the Ohio Isolated Wetlands rules.
The gift will be given to the two students consecutively. The first of the two researchers selected to participate is first-year Environmental Studies graduate student Melanie Rudolf, who received a bachelor of specialized studies in environmental biology from Ohio University.
SWF works in wetland mitigation, which is the process of preserving, enhancing, restoring or creating a wetland. Rudolph spent her first summer of research exploring wetlands — primarily mitigation wetlands — with Rob Wiley, wetlands scientist and senior research ecologist at the Voinovich School, learning about botany, hydrology, soils and the basic foundations of wetland science.
“The goal of the gift was to further the knowledge of wetlands in the area,” Nichole Kirchner, environmental specialist at the Voinovich School said.
Another purpose of the SWF gift is to assist students in developing the research they need to write their theses. Rudolph is testing the viability of a thesis on the ecological significance of the expansion of invasive hybrid cattails.
SWF’s methods have developed greatly in recent years. During Rudolph’s visits to the wetlands, she witnessed the difference between a wetland mitigated in the ‘90s and one done recently. One skill developed is the use of micro-topography grading, which creates variable elevations relative to water levels for enhancing spatial species diversity. Her time in the field helped to provide an improved understanding of the basics in wetland mitigation.
“The real solutions to the complex problems facing society in the 21st century are truly multi-disciplinary,” Jennifer Bowman, interim director of environmental programs, said. “Training our students to combine skills in environmental science, policy assessment, economics and project financing, and community stakeholder involvement will allow them to be better practitioners and better position them on their career path once they leave Ohio University.”