March 15, 2012/SVSU News
Students and faculty from Saginaw Valley State University and Delta College have spent the past year working together to improve the water quality of the Saginaw Bay Watershed, the largest watershed in Michigan. At The National Center for Science and Civic Engagement Symposium and Capitol Hill Poster Session in Washington, DC Tuesday, March 13, their joint efforts were cited as a premier example for similar partnerships throughout the Great Lakes states and nationwide.
Invited attendees included members of Congress, as well as staff from federal departments including the National Park Service, the United States Forest Service, and the National Science Foundation. They learned how Delta and SVSU students and faculty began a service learning project to test the quality of the Kawkawlin River Watershed in 2011.
"This is a collaborative project between Delta College and SVSU, with a ton of community support and partners," said Jacob Vanhouten, associate professor of biology at Delta. "It's a real team effort and a great learning experience for students because they see their work having a positive impact on our local environment. They're not just in the lab doing mock water tests. It's hands-on learning on a serious project."
Focused locally, the project includes field, classroom, teaching, lab and community-based research components, and aims to assess methods to restore the Kawkawlin River in a way that can be replicated elsewhere in the Saginaw Bay Watershed. Community partners benefiting from the data include the Bay and Saginaw Area Storm Water authorities, the Bay County Health Department, the Kawkawlin River Watershed Property Owners Association, and the Midland Soil Conservation District.
The effort also is affiliated with and supported by an 8-state environmental consortium called GLISTEN, the Great Lakes Innovative Stewardship through Education Network.
"The Saginaw Bay partnership is a great example of how students and faculty from different higher education institutions can work hand-in-hand with local stakeholders to address significant environmental challenges," said GLISTEN Director Glenn Odenbrett.
The National Center for Science and Civic Engagement at the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology received funding for GLISTEN from the Learn and Serve America program of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
David Karpovich, H.H. Dow Endowed Chair in Chemistry at SVSU, said that he hopes this project will open up doors for future collaborations.
"I've enjoyed every aspect of this program, especially the gracious way that faculty from Delta College and SVSU has shared time and resources for the benefit of their students," he said. "The partnerships we've made with the community have enabled student opportunities that are not only hands-on but also relevant to this very important regional issue."