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Richard Buffone '16 & Josh Toth ’18

“The Delaware River Watershed Initiative: Macroinvertebrate and Fish Community Assessment in the Upper Lehigh River Watershed"

Hometown: Pottstown, PA
Project Advisor: Dr. Frank Kuserk

Briefly describe your project.

The project that we were involved with this summer was performing stream monitoring and checking water quality through the use of different metrics in the Lehigh River watershed. The primary metric that our project focused on was the Hilsenhoff Biotic index (HBI), with the HBI we could assign a score to the  certain stream. We did that with the different benthic macroinvertebrates we collected  in the sites where we sampled. And with that score we could give an indication of the health of that particular stream.

Why did you decide to turn your idea into a SOAR project?

This project originated from the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. They are the organization that tell the  region clusters of research groups ( we are the upper Lehigh River watershed)  to monitor specific sites and collect as much data as needed. For us in particular, we have this unique partnership with a local organization, the Wildlands Conservancy which we aid in gathering the data from the particular streams.  And the Wildlands Conservancy  is a non-profit environmental protection, restoration and education organization. Through this unique partnership we get to participate we on going monitoring and they get assistance in collecting data.   

How did your faculty advisor guide you through your research?

The best part about working Dr. Kuserk was getting to know him and learning from his years experience in this field of study. One big take away that we got out of it was learning how for ecologists and ecological studies it is all about scale of size in everything you look at.

What was your biggest obstacle?

The biggest obstacle was in the study itself. With performing the different metrics, we had to identify the different organisms down to a certain taxa (specific grouping). This process was at times long and tedious.

 What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

The biggest takeaway from SOAR was being able to present our research and be confident in doing it. This gave a chance to see if presenting and sharing academic research is what we want to do. And having participated the Landmark Conference back in July cemented that ambition.

What was the result of your project?

The result of my particular project did not have any hard conclusions. However, with our study we were able to look at two sites and observe how human impacts have affected that particular site. One of the sites we looked at was a dam that was on the Monocacy Creek. What we found were some of the worst HBI scores Dr. Kuserk has ever seen since he begun this project.

In your own words, how do you feel about being awarded this opportunity?

To be granted this honor is very humbling because you get to do this project not just for yourself, but for your advisor and for Moravian. Students should take advantage of this because it builds your confidence if you want to go into research. It is also an amazing experience to take part in because you form long lasting relationships with your advisors.