EPA Grant Funds Rowan Environmental Outreach

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The United States Environmental Protection Agency has awarded Rowan University a one-year, $250,000 grant for The Rowan University Community Partnership: Bridging Environmental Information to the Loca

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has awarded Rowan University a one-year, $250,000 grant for The Rowan University Community Partnership: Bridging Environmental Information to the Local Community. The project will entail faculty and students conducting field assessments and outreach related to two South Jersey watersheds.

The Rowan team, led by Sociology professor Dr. DeMond Miller, principal investigator, includes Civil Engineering professors Drs. Joseph Orlins, Kauser Jahan and Jess Everett, and Geography professor Dr. John Hasse.

The team will evaluate Newton Creek in Camden, a highly urban watershed, and the Chestnut Branch of Mantua Creek, a suburban/developing watershed in the Glassboro, Pitman and Mantua Township areas.

?I am pleased to have been able to help Rowan University continue its tradition of providing quality advice and assistance to the communities in our region. Rowan's Community Partnership program will provide a dual role to enable communities to address their environmental concerns and allow students a hands-on experience to further their educational experience,? said Congressman Rob Andrews, who was instrumental in securing the funding for the project.

The projects will center on identifying potential pollution sources and developing a community outreach program to educate local officials and residents. The outreach activities will include faculty and student presentations on sources of pollution, their impact on human health and the environment and prevention options.

As part of the effort, Rowan faculty and students will construct hands-on physical models and develop a multi-media Geographic Information Systems CD that can be used as a resource for general community education as well as local planning. The packaging of the environmental information in an easy-to-understand and visually engaging medium for both locations will serve to equip the local residents with an interactive means to access information after the project and serve as a bridge between environmental professionals and the local community.

Digital multimedia technologies such as digital imaging, digital video and virtual reality coupled with the wealth of digital environmental information now available for Geographic Information Systems provide great potential for making the environmental information more accessible and understandable to local decision makers, non-governmental organizations, land developers, educators and citizens. This program for community outreach will utilize newly available multimedia technologies for a more effective dissemination of environmental information to government entities, schools and community groups. The deliverables will include community workshops, school (K-12) workshops and an interactive CD-ROM for local government planners, environmental specialists, developers and citizens.

?Such information is powerful in the decision-making process and will serve as an asset to Camden, Glassboro, Pitman and Mantua,? Miller said. ?To accomplish these tasks and link them together with a geospatial component, we have assembled a multidisciplinary team including civil and environmental engineers and social science professionals with experience in environmental science, geospatial technologies and community outreach activities.?

Orlins noted that this project is an important effort in facilitating the protection of the environment in South Jersey.

?Communities have become more aware of their environments in recent years, but there still exists a gap between the growing base of environmental knowledge and the incorporation of that knowledge at the local level to guide environmental decisions and land management policy,? Orlins said.

He pointed out that that gap is in great part due to the ever-growing complexity of science, economic pressures for development and the challenge for local stake-holders to understand, incorporate and use environmental knowledge when making policy, managing land use or developing economic strategies.

?While environmental research should continue at a progressive pace, there is a vital need for developing better methods of making environmental knowledge more accessible and understandable to local stakeholders,? Hasse said.

Four students from Civil and Environmental Engineering and from Chemical Engineering have worked on the project to date. Over the next year, the team expects to have eight to 10 students from Engineering, Geography and Liberal Arts and Sciences work on the project. A visiting student from Oklahoma State University will work on the project this summer as part of the NSF-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates in Pollution Prevention project.

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