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Sea Grant Provides Funding for Professors’ Stream Research

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Drs. Virginia Smith and Andrea Welker in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering have been awarded nearly $120,000 in funding through the Pennsylvania Sea Grant program, which conducts and supports scientific research that promotes the ecological and economic sustainability of Pennsylvania’s coastal and watershed resources. Titled “Evaluating the comprehensive impacts of urbanization and restoration on stream processes,” this interdisciplinary, collaborative two-year project will be completed with Dr. Stanley Kemp, an environmental sustainability expert from the University of Baltimore. Building upon Drs. Welker's and Kemp's work with the William Penn Foundation, the project aims to expand knowledge about the impact of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) on downstream stream health.

Using the Delaware estuary and its entering streams as a source, the study has three main objectives:

  1. Determine the impact of the implementation of a permitted level of modern GSI on effluent stream processes.
  2. Determine if a densely developed site designed in compliance with modern ordinances can reverse stream function deterioration caused by older ordinances and establish a timeframe for this rehabilitation.
  3. Quantify the downstream consequences of urban development in regard to altered sediment transport, fluvial geomorphologic adjustments, and the spatial area of altered habitat.

“The Delaware estuary, given its location at the center of complex urban, suburban and agricultural land use, represents both a challenge and an opportunity in terms of ecosystem health,” says Assistant Professor Dr. Smith. To preserve its valuable ecosystem services and wildlife habitat, information for guiding successful restoration and protection strategies is essential.

Professor and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Welker adds: “This project will make a substantial contribution to the emerging science of watershed restoration through green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) implementation and will increase our understanding of urbanization on all stream processes. The study results will provide critical information-based guidance to Pennsylvania municipalities regarding the implementation of GSI, serving to improve ecosystem services in developed watersheds such as the Delaware Estuary.”