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American Electric Power pledges $250,000 to establish professorship for regional wetlands research
Ohio University Professorship will allow further work to clean polluted watersheds

ATHENS, Ohio (March 18, 2004) -- American Electric Power (AEP) has pledged $250,000 as part of Ohio University's Bicentennial Campaign to establish the American Electric Power Watershed Research and Reclamation Professorship at Ohio University's George V. Voinovich Center for Leadership and Public Affairs.

The gift was announced today (March 18) at the Voinovich Center.

Sen. George Voinovich"I'm grateful to AEP for endowing this professorship. It represents something that is dear to me, and that is the private-public sector partnership," U.S. Sen. George V. Voinovich said. "This is a center that makes a difference in the lives of people in this area and has implications beyond the region."

This gift supports the work of the center and Ohio University's faculty in watershed research and reclamation and provides resources to further this work by endowing a professorship in environmental biology. Watershed research is important in the Appalachian region because many watersheds have been damaged by acid mine drainage from past mining practices, and ongoing mitigation efforts are critical to the health of the entire system.

Mary Stoertz, associate professor of geological sciences, is the first recipient of the endowment. Stoertz is leading a team of university, government, community and industry researchers in an effort to repair a system of watersheds in southeastern Ohio. Her studies of areas surrounding Monday Creek, Sunday Creek, Raccoon Creek and Moxahala Creek have led to new techniques to restore water and land damaged from coal mining to its pre-mining conditions. Stoertz, her colleagues and students have developed a wetlands system currently under study at Rock Run, outside of New Straitsville in the Monday Creek watershed.

"As a professor of geological sciences, I have a vested interest in this project, and am one of many faculty members who care about the Appalachian region and its natural resources," Stoertz said. "AEP's partnership is important because industry has to be part of the solution to this challenging mineland problem. The resources will be used as seed money to help students get innovative projects off the ground."

For example, Stoertz, her colleague Associate Professor of Geological Sciences Dina Lopez and Ohio University students have worked with state and federal agencies on identifying and closing sinkholes in Monday and Sunday Creek watersheds. There, clean stream water cascades into vast underground mine systems, then becomes acidified before it gushes out of abandoned mine entries into streams.

AEP State President Jane Harf. Photo by Rick FaticaAEP State President Jane Harf said, "The Voinovich Center is an invaluable resource for the region, and we're committed to the success of its work. With this gift, we hope to help improve the existing physical environment of the watershed which, in turn, will have a positive impact on all aspects of life for residents of the region."

"This endowed professorship will allow Ohio University faculty and students to continue research that is vital to southeastern Ohio. The university is proud of its relationship with the region, and improving the quality of life for its residents is an important part of our mission," Ohio University President Robert Glidden said. "It has always been an important part of our students' education to give back to the community in unique ways such as this."

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

The Voinovich Center's students, alumni and faculty develop solutions to challenges that face our region and the state. Through its various units and programs, the center provides applied research, training and technical assistance to local and state government agencies, businesses, nonprofit organizations and educators. It also develops pools of talent around areas of pressing concern. A central goal of the Center is to give undergraduate and graduate students real-life experience to complement their degrees while assisting Ohio's communities.

The Bicentennial Campaign - which has raised more than $195 million toward its goal of raising $200 million to celebrate the university's bicentennial in 2004 - will provide money for scholarships, endowed professorships, technological enhancements, innovative programs and selected capital improvements.

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Media Contacts: Media Specialist Jack Jeffery, (740) 597-1793 or jefferyj@ohio.edu, or Director of Development Communication Jennifer Bowie, (740) 597-1739

Note to media: Photos from today's event are available online at

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