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Professorship puts undergraduate research on solid ground

Sept. 27, 2004

By Jennifer Shutt Bowie

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On a perfect fall day, senior Pete Schillig isn't out on the College Green enjoying the afternoon. Instead, the geological sciences major is hiking through Belmont County's Dysart Woods as part of an undergraduate research project.

Thanks to a $250,000 gift from American Electric Power that established the AEP Watershed Research and Reclamation Professorship in the George V. Voinovich Center for Leadership and Public Affairs, Schillig is studying the effects of different mining techniques on an aquifer and gaining valuable hands-on experience.

"Dysart and the surrounding areas offer an excellent opportunity to compare water levels over longwall mining, room-and-pillar mining and an area without mining," Schillig says. "This research is important because many people's water supplies are affected by the mineral extractive industry. The link between the environment and the people is really important to me, and (so is) how the environment affects how people live."

Photo by Rick FaticaMany Appalachian watersheds have been damaged by acid mine drainage. AEP's gift recognizes the efforts of the Voinovich Center and Ohio University faculty in watershed research and reclamation and provides resources to advance these endeavors.

AEP Professor Mary Stoertz, who works on watershed repair through the Voinovich Center, says, "I don't use (the professorship) as a salary supplement. I'm using it to pay students like Pete to get them in the field. If we can free him up to do science, that's enormously valuable for his resume."

The Faculty Fellows from the Appalachian Watershed Research Group and the Institute for Local Government Administration and Rural Development, both part of the Voinovich Center, are working with watershed groups and state and federal agencies to provide research and training in the assessment and restoration of watersheds in southeast Ohio.

"Dr. Stoertz has presented me with this project and asked if I wanted to do it, to lead it," says Schillig. "I just thought it was great that here we have professors who will contribute to undergraduate participation in research. I think that instills a lot of enthusiasm for the sciences."

Jennifer Shutt Bowie, BSJ '94 and MSC '99 is director of development communication for Ohio University. This article appeared in the fall edition of Ohio Today.

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