Inside Moravian
e-Newsletter of the Moravian College Campus Community 07/17/15
 

 

 
 

Frank Kuserk Named ‘Friend of the Lehigh River’ by Wildlands Conservancy

By Andrew Mengel ‘17

As Bethlehem continues to boom in population and societal advances, the city has accepted numerous organizations to make sure that environmental sustainability endures these changes. Frank T. Kuserk, professor of biology at Moravian College, also recognizes this challenge, and has recently been named Friend of the Lehigh River by the Wildlands Conservancy for his commitment to preserving, protecting, restoring and enhancing the Lehigh River and its watershed.

Kuserk first became interested in conservation, especially that of freshwater streams and rivers, through his work with the Conservancy in the early 2000s. The premier nonprofit, founded in 1973, sets out to protect and restore critical natural areas and waterways while educating the community. The annual award is an acknowledgment of individuals, groups, organizations, businesses, institutions or governmental entities that deserve to be recognized for their commitment to preserving, protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Lehigh River and its watershed. Kuserk’s work  on the river has led to, “the restoration of 15 miles of stream in the Jordan and Monocacy creek watersheds. His committed share of time and talent hugely supports the largest most comprehensive watershed assessment of the Lehigh River,” says the Wildland Conservancy.

ABOVE: In October 2014, Kuserk (in red) and his ecology students helped plant close to 60,000 chestnuts and oak acorns in experimental plots in State Gamelands #205 in New Tripoli, PA. This month, Kuserk (accompanied by SOAR and other students) surveyed their work for germination and survival rates. Results from this project, a joint initiative with The American Chestnut Foundation/Penn State, the PA Game Commission and the Moravian College Biological Sciences​ and Environmental Studies and Sciences programs​, and will help determine if it is possible to restore the American Chestnut to Pennsylvania's forests. 

Kuserk first took an interest in the science of ecology in high school, during a week-long biology field trip to Vermont. That trip inspired him to  work with the National Science Foundation before receiving his Bachelors of Science in biology from the University of Notre Dame and Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Delaware. “Conservation is what I call ‘applied ecology,’ adopting ecological principles and practices in order to preserve species and habitats in nature,” says Kuserk. “Ecologists haven’t always been interested in conservation, preferring to study nature early on in its ‘pure state.’ However, the environmental challenges that we have faced over the past few decades have caused ecologists to take an increasing interest in protecting and preserving nature.”

In the early years of the SOAR program at Moravian College, one of Kuserk’s students was awarded funding to work with him on a project that examined the effects of habitat restoration. Since then, his involvement with the Wildlands Conservancy has steadily increased, going so far as to spend a sabbatical semester at there working on projects that assessed water quality and biological communities in the Lehigh River.

The Lehigh River continues to serve as a canvas for Kuserk’s collaborative student research projects. “Since 2001 I have involved 17 Moravian students in SOAR projects in conjunction with the Wildlands Conservancy,” he says. “As a result of our studies, the Conservancy has acquired more than $700,000 in grants to remove dams on local streams.” This summer, he is working with three SOAR participants at Moravian College on various stream projects in Bethlehem. One of his former students also has asked him to take the lead in performing fish and macroinvertebrate studies as a long-term project that could potentially provide conservation biologists with a massive amount of data that they can use to help preserve and protect species and habitat in the Delaware River and its tributaries.

With environmental problems like deforestation, global warming and more facing this current generation, Kuserk thinks it’s important to give his students hands-on experiences in conservation.

“Working to help solve real-life problems such as these really excites the students who work on these projects,” he says. “Because there is often a time delay between when students actually work with me to do the stream assessments and when the results are fully revealed they don’t always get to see the fruits of their labor. I try to keep in touch with them to let them know that the work that they had done a few years before has now paid off. It is clearly a sense of pride that they get when they see that they actually made a difference.”

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