Minding The Gap: Moravian Hosts Research Roundtable

Diane Husic directs a discussion at the Lehigh Gap Wildlife Refuge Research Roundtable, held at Moravian College.

"Five years ago, parts of it looked as dead as the surface of the moon," says Diane Husic, chair of Moravian’s biology department. "Now it's almost like a prairie, with grass up to your knees."

She's talking about 750 acres of land in the Lehigh Gap, along the Lehigh River in the Slatington area of Pennsylvania. Damaged and degraded by more than fifty years of industrial pollution from a local zinc smelting operation, the area was designated a Superfund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In 2002, restoration efforts began under the auspices of the Lehigh Gap Restoration Project (LGRP). Since then, the project’s strategy of planting native warm-season grasses has not only produced significant greening of formerly barren areas, it's resulted in a return of long-absent insects, birds, and mammals to the site. Recently the LGRP was given the U.S. Department of Interior's Cooperative Conservation Partnership Award.

On January 4, many of the researchers and experts involved in the Lehigh Gap restoration gathered at Moravian College for a roundtable meeting to share information, exchange ideas, and discuss opportunities for future research and collaboration. Participants included visitors from nine colleges and universities, as well as representatives from the U.S. Geological Survey and the EPA. Some traveled from as far afield as Maryland and Utah. "It’s the first time we’ve ever been in the same room together," says Diane, who ran the meeting. "There are folks here who I’ve worked with for years, but never met face to face." The day's agenda included an overview of the project by Dan Kunkle, executive director of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, as well as brainstorming and networking sessions.