Dominican College and Sparkill Creek Watershed Alliance Win Grant

Dominican College in collaboration with the Sparkill Creek Watershed Alliance (SCWA) has been awarded a grant through the Water Resources Grant Program of the NYS Water Resources Institute (WRI) at Cornell University.

The Water Resources Research Grant will support the development of a course-based service learning research project that will educate and train undergraduate students in the fields of ecology and molecular microbiology. Students in the courses Molecular Microbiology, Introduction to Ecology, and Research Seminar at Dominican College will be involved in an analysis of the diversity of plant species in the Sparkill Creek watershed area, and will determine the level and type of fecal contamination in this waterway. They will serve as hands-on researchers under the guidance of the Sparkill Creek Watershed Alliance and the Hudson Riverkeeper. The overarching goal of this project is to integrate novel research experience into the Biology curriculum at Dominican College. This research will encourage students to understand the role of “citizen science” while they learn how science professionals who continue in STEM professions and/or graduate studies can serve citizen science and the waterways. The grant will provide funds from April 2015-April 2016.

According to Dr. Madeline Mignone, Associate Professor of Biology and Dr. Bernadette Connors, Assistant Professor of Biology at the College, “The students will benefit from the hands-on experience that this grant makes possible. The course-based service learning project will provide the students with research experience and gives them a sense of community, as they are working with SCWA (a very active and respected citizen scientist) group that has done much in monitoring the Sparkill Creek waters for Riverkeeper.”

Laurie Seeman, Director of the SCWA adds, “Partnership means that there is a shared learning community being developed that is dedicated to the health and well- being of the waterway. The waterway has no voice, except for what we say. Science and data is a language that is a bridge between the citizens and the government and decision makers. Therefore, developing the best science is one of the most important ways to help the creek.”

The Sparkill Creek Watershed Alliance (SCWA) is a community action group committed to promoting environmental awareness, partnerships and practices that restore and preserve the health of the Sparkill Creek and watershed. SCWA has partnered with Riverkeeper over several years by taking water samples at sixteen sites monthly during the months of May to October. This partnership was the first tributary assessment citizen partnership undertaken by Riverkeeper, and has become a model for working with other watershed groups.

The Mission of the New York State Water Resources Institute (WRI) is to improve the management of water resources in New York State and the nation. WRI is uniquely positioned, being federally and state mandated and located on a University campus, to access resources and technologies that are best practices in water management needs. WRI serves as a connection between the water research and water management communities, addressing critical water resource issues. In collaboration with partners around the state, WRI creates and sustains a large network of cross-discipline water resources researchers and managers. They also improve the quality and quantity of information regarding water resources management and technologies available and share their knowledge with educators, managers, and policy makers.

Dominican College, a 2014 College of Distinction, is an independent institution of higher learning, Catholic in origin and heritage. In the tradition of its Dominican founders, it fosters the active, shared pursuit of truth and embodies an ideal of education rooted in the values of reflective understanding and compassionate involvement.