Development of a database that will be able to track potential impacts of Marcellus Shale activity on water quality is the focus of a new $750,000 research collaboration led by Penn State researchers.
the National Science Foundation, the Marcellus Shale Research Network will
consolidate and routinely update water data being collected by watershed
groups, government agencies, industry stakeholders and universities as a searchable
database. The project also will facilitate and train additional community
groups in how to organize, collect and interpret water data.
data collection is occurring through the Marcellus Shale region, but synthesis
of that data into useful knowledge is needed," says Susan Brantley,
principal investigator and director of Penn State's
Earth and Environmental Systems Institute. “Our database will not only
establish background concentrations, but enable assessment of impacts across
the Marcellus Shale extraction region."
also will examine the interplay between scientists and community watershed
groups – that is, community members without formal scientific training – in
data collection and knowledge generation. Penn State
researcher Kathy Brasier is leading the effort to study how citizen groups have
been organizing and growing in the region of shale activity.
collaborators include researchers from the University
of Pittsburgh and Bucknell University,
as well as Dickinson College, which has been training community groups to
organize, collect and interpret water data through its Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring
group. The Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic
Sciences Inc. will develop the database.
development of the Marcellus Shale has prompted interest in collecting and
documenting pre-drilling surface water quality, and more than 700 volunteers
are engaged in that activity. But county and state agencies also are tracking
surface water data as are several colleges and universities. The Marcellus
Shale Research Network not only will identify all entities collecting water
data, but also will create a sustainable network among those groups.
Coordination of these efforts could lead to more extensive sampling and enhance
development of long-term data records, both of which will aid in tracking
environmental monitoring. Given human impacts, the need for such networks is
critical, Brantley says.
network will lay the groundwork for a monitoring approach that can track
impacts of Marcellus Shale development across multiple ecological, social and
economic attributes of the region -- and provide a model for other
regions," Brantley adds.
particular interest for the network are constituents regulated by the state and
often associated with Marcellus Shale development, including total dissolved
solids, chlorides, barium and strontium, says David Yoxtheimer, extension
associate with the Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research and member of the
research team. In addition to geochemical and hydrological data, the research
network also will explore the role of community watershed organizations in
building scientific understanding and knowledge for citizen scientists about
the impacts of Marcellus Shale.