Symposium addresses river health

LEWISBURG — The 12th annual Susquehanna River Symposium began Friday night at Bucknell University, welcoming over 120 student and faculty researchers from 16 universities and colleges.

The two-day event, hosted by the Watershed Sciences and Engineering Program of the Center for Sustainability and the Environment, is a chance to bring the public together with those that study the river and those that regulate its use.

“We feel that there is a need to put on events like this where the general public can interact with planners, watershed groups, academics, researchers and the commissioners, who often regulate the amount of water and the water quality, so we can ask questions and come up with solutions that are really necessary,” Benjamin Hayes, director of the program, said.

The theme for this year’s symposium was “The Spirit of Two Great Rivers: The Susquehanna and the Delaware.” The keynote address on Friday night was presented by Thomas R. Porter, a member of the Bear Clan of the Haudenausanee Mohawk Nation near Fonda, New York.

During his address, Porter told the audience the Mohawk nation’s creation story and told of the importance of respecting mother nature and her waters.

“You and I have the most wonderful mother who has never neglected us,” Porter said. “There are people in the world who dig and bore in her innards and hurt her and injure her. And there are those of us that really love her and would never do that to her.”

To Porter, he is proud of the work of local students and he believes it is a good sign of things to come.

“The students are the future of the world and they have to get it right, everyone before them had it very wrong.” Porter said. “It sounds like they are at the tip of the iceberg to get it right.”

The Symposium also hosted a research posters and evening social where students and faculty who have done research related to the rivers, were able to show their research to the public and according to Hayes, this year’s research was a record.

“Thanks to organizations like the River Heartland Coalition we are seeing more and more students,” Hayes said. “I think it’s important that the towns know that their local colleges are committed to studying the river… and the level of student research is increasing more and more.”

On Saturday, three guests gave presentations to symposium attendees including Dr. Elizabeth W. Boyer, director of the Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Center at Penn State University, Dr. David L. Strayer, a senior scientist emeritus of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and Porter, who gave a second presentation.

Researchers also gave oral presentations throughout the day on a variety of topics like agriculture, ecology and flood hydrology.

“Venues like this where we can create a sort of environment that’s relaxed, and free and open, we like it too as scientists,” Hayes said.