e-Newsletter of Moravian College and Moravian Theological Seminary | February 15, 2013 Twitter Facebook

Gifts benefit Moravian’s environmental studies

Frank Kuserk, professor of biological sciences, instructs students at the Deputy Field Center.

photo by Michael Wilson

The Environmental Studies and Sciences Program recently received a much-needed resource with a gift of 70 acres of land in northern Northampton County.

The A. John '50 and Lillian K. Deputy Field Center for Environmental and Biological Sciences, a gift from Jay Deputy named in honor of his parents, serves as an outdoor laboratory in which students and faculty can conduct various environmental experiments and research. The center is located approximately 30 miles from the college just north of the town of Roseto and within the Kittatinny Ridge Corridor. Many vernal pools that serve as breeding places for several endangered and threatened amphibian species are located on the property.

In December 2011, the Environmental Studies and Sciences Program also received a grant of $383,600 from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation. In 2009, the program was awarded a grant from the foundation in the amount of $10,000 per year plus stock dividends for five years. One immediate use of the funds was the purchase of a new 15-passenger van that will be used to transport students and equipment to the Deputy Field Center and other locations to conduct environmental research.

This semester, students in Dr. Frank Kuserk’s ecology class initiated two studies designed to monitor long-term ecological changes. Teams of students collected and dried leaves from four tree species, weighed out equal amounts, and placed each sample into a mesh litter bag. They then secured the bags into a section of the stream that runs through the Deputy Field Center

Next spring students in Kuserk’s aquatic biology class will retrieve the bags, weigh them again to determine loss of material due to decomposition, and then collect and identify the macroinvertebrates most responsible for the changes. The purpose of the project is to find out which of the four types of leaves decompose fastest and to determine whether different species of macroinvertebrates have a preferred food source. (See a short video on YouTube)

The students also spent time this fall establishing 20-meter x 20-meter forest plots that they then censused and mapped for the types and number of trees found in each. They also recorded the basal height diameter and the condition, whether healthy or diseased, of each tree. Moravian is participating in this Permanent Forest Plot Project along with several other colleges and universities across North America in order to monitor changes in forests due to such things as climate change and development.