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Chester County Press

'It's not local, it's not regional, it's not national, it's global'

10/29/2014 01:02AM ● By Lev

By Steven Hoffman

Staff Writer

 As the world’s population soars and the effects of climate change grow, the need to ensure global freshwater quality and availability has never been more urgent.

“It's not local, it's not regional, it's not national, it's global,” said Rod Moorhead of the effort to make sure that people have access to clean, safe water. “There's nothing more important than fresh water.”

Moorhead is the chairman of the board of directors of the Avondale-based Stroud Water Research Center, which held a fundraiser at Longwood Gardens last week.

The Stroud Center has been a leader in research on freshwater ecosystems around the world for nearly four decades. The Stroud Center was founded by Dr. Ruth Patrick, W.B. Dixon Stroud, and Joan Milliken Stroud. It was a field station of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia starting in 1967, and construction of a permanent location on Spencer Road in Avondale was completed in 1968. The scientists at the Stroud Center conduct basic and applied research on freshwater ecosystems throughout the world, starting with the White Clay Creek, which is situated near the center.

Robin Vannote, Stroud Center’s first director, pioneered influential stream ecology research. Bernard Sweeney became the second director and expanded the Stroud Center’s mission to include education, outreach, and restoration, with the goal of constantly advancing global knowledge and stewardship of fresh water ecosystems throughout the world.

The Stroud Center has hundreds of research sites in this region and many more around the world, focusing—always—on providing answers to scientific questions.

“Our work has really taken us all across the world,” explained Sweeney, whose research interests include the ecology of stream invertebrates and their response to climate change, stream pollution, stream restoration, and the importance of streamside forests to stream ecosystems.

There have been many instances where the scientific work by Stroud Center researchers has been shared with government policymakers, businesses, property owners, and individuals to help them make informed decisions about land-use practices. Some of the work has had broad implications for land managers.

Dave Arscott, Ph. D., the assistant director and research scientist at Stroud, helped coordinate the center’s multi-year project investigating stream and reservoir health in New York City’s drinking water supply watersheds. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a leading environmental advocate in the U.S. said that the scientific research that Stroud Center conducted was invaluable as various entities worked together to develop a plan for the future that would ensure adequate and safe water supplies.

The Stroud Center recently received a $2.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation to work with the Concord Consortium and Millersville University to expand Model My Watershed, which allows users, including citizens, to explore how land use affects stream ecology and hydrology.

Arscott said that they are developing a digital learning environment that will help scientists and the public to learn about simple things that they can do to ensure that waterways are clean and safe.

Stroud Center also received a $1.26 million grant from the William Penn Foundation to monitor water quality of regional sub-watersheds in the Delaware River Basin. This wide-ranging initiative features eight ecologically significant sub-watershed clusters—about 25 percent of the total Delaware River Basin—across four states.

According to Sweeney, education is an important part of the work at Stroud. Through field work and classroom instruction, scientists at the center work closely with students in the region. The center's education team also makes the research findings accessible to a broad audience—other scientists, teachers, students, and policy-makers. The goal is to promote understanding so that the next generation of citizens will have the information necessary to preserve and restore watersheds. Watershed restoration is another important component of the work at Stroud. Specialists apply research findings to real-world conservation efforts and they work with landowners to install forest buffers and other conservation practices.

Even though some progress has been made, there is still considerable work to be done to protect waterways now and in the future.

A recent national report revealed that 60 percent of the streams and rivers in the U.S. are impaired.

“Things are better now than they were in the 1950s and 1960s,” Sweeney said, “but we're not where we want to be. Fresh water has become our most precious resource. We need every drop of clean, fresh water we can get.”


To contact Steven Hoffman, email

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