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Moravian College

Courtnie Lambert ‘16

"Assessing the Impact of Conservation Efforts on Water Quality in the Upper Lehigh River"


 Major/Minor: Biology
 Hometown:Hellertown, PA
 Project Advisers: Dr. Frank Kuserk


Briefly describe your project.

For this project we collected macroinvertebrate and fish samples in different tributaries of the Upper Lehigh River. These organisms are used as bioindicators and can represent the quality of the stream. Using the Hilsenhoff Pollution Tolerance Values of the macroinvertebrates, we computed the Hilsenhoff Biotic Index to determine the quality of the stream. This project is just a piece of a larger project, the Delaware River Watershed Initiative which is run by the Academy of Natural Sciences. It is a three year initiative to determine the health of the Delaware River Watershed.

Describe the origin of your project.

Dr. Kuserk worked on this initiative last year and has also worked consistently with the Wildlands Conservancy. To continue working on these projects he needs student help.

What’s the best part about working with your faculty mentor? What valuable insights have they brought to your project?
Dr. Kuserk is extremely knowledgeable in his field. He has demonstrated how to look at problems from many different angles to find a solution. He also has many connections to other professionals in ecology. 

What has been your biggest obstacle so far?

One of the largest obstacles when doing research in ecology is the weather. We cannot control the weather and often times we would have to alter our plans according to the weather and sometimes even change our plans all together.

What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

This experience gave me some direction towards my future. Before completing SOAR, I knew I wanted to complete my major in Biology, but I didn’t know where I wanted to take my degree. After this summer I feel extremely confident that I want to pursue a career in Ecology. SOAR gave me a defined future.

What was the result of your project? Was it congruent with your hypothesis?

Our results were indicating that the tributaries of the Upper Lehigh tend to have better quality than those of the Lower Lehigh. In previous years, SOAR students collected data on the Lower Lehigh and we were able to compare our results to their data. The Upper Lehigh was chosen in the initiative as an area that should try to maintain healthy stream conditions and our data suggests that these streams are in fact healthy.

Do you think you’ll be able to extend on your research after this summer is over? If so, where would you like to see it go?

This project can definitely be extended in the future. The initiative still has one more year and members working in the initiative are in the works of planning the next stage of the project. I would love to see action being taken on those streams with poor quality to improve the stream and the areas around it.