Aerial view of campus with Williamsport, the Susquehanna River and Bald Eagle Mountain as a backdrop

Clean Water Institute Projects

The following is a list of the projects that the Clean Water Institute is currently working on:

Acadian Program

The goal of this program is to educate students on the importance of conservation, especially in regards to large landscape-scale conservation. Students are brought from all over the world to participate in this week long course. This year's participants were from Massachusetts, Chile, Argentina, Belize, Vietnam and Pennsylvania, including Lycoming's own Trent Lee and Emily Vebrosky. Prior to the workshop, each team was directed to prepare a 3 hour presentation on a large conservation initiative in their country/state. The Pennsylvania team included two students from Lycoming College Clean Water Institute and one from Bloomsburg University. Pennsylvania's team, under the direction of Dr. Zimmerman, delivered an elaborate presentation on the issues, clean-up efforts, and economic effects of the Susquehanna River watershed and Chesapeake Bay. Groups collaborated together after each presentation to come up with a consensus of possible solutions for each group. After introducing specific conservation efforts being made around the world, the student's attention was then brought to a current project that is underway in Maine. The "Bay to Baxter" initiative entitles the efforts being made to connect parcels of land that currently represent a long corridor from the Penobscot Bay to Baxter State Park. Teams from each region were mixed and assembled into new teams according to specialties; this allowed for each group to concentrate on a specific task. Each team was provided with a challenge to solve regarding the "Bay to Baxter" initiative, and as a whole, aid in organizing the next efforts to be made. Aside from the presentations and initiatives, the course also included trips to several locations along the Penobscot River and Acadia National Park. The top of Cadillac Mountain provided a fantastic view that captured nearly the entire stretch of the "Bay to Baxter" initiative, and was a good representation of the sheer size of land this initiative is aiming to protect. A poster summarizing this experience can be found here.

Antes Creek

Antes Creek flows through both forested land and land used primarily for farming, in the Jersey Shore area of Northcentral Pennsylvania. The purpose of the recent Antes Creek study was to review the water quality of the creek using the EPA's Rapid Bioassessment, Protocol III (Plafkin et al 1989 and Barbour et al 1999). In 2002, CWI interns performed habitat assessments along with macroinvertebrate identification. The Nippenose Valley Watershed Association has continued the monitoring of Antes Creek from the conclusion of the CWI study to present.

  • See data for this project.

Big Bear Creek Stream Restoration Project

The Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation with the Dunwoody - Big Bear Hunting and Fishing Club and other partners including DEP Growing Greener Grant and Lycoming College, has initiated a watershed restoration project on Big Bear Creek in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. This project proposes to stabilize and improve aquatic habitats throughout the 3.8 miles (6.13 km) of the main stem of Big Bear Creek. The stream is classified as a high quality cold water fishery, and has a long history of providing quality trout fishing. Detailed records document the quality of the fishery - primarily for native brook trout - for over 100 years. Since 1972, the stream has suffered from three natural floods and one human-caused event. Hurricanes Agnes and Eloise, and a January 19, 1996 flood were the natural events. All moved significant amounts of sediment and caused severe bank erosion and debris jams. In 1996, a dam on the headwaters was declared unsafe and removed, dumping 100 years of accumulated sediment into the channel. Stream clearing work by Plunketts Creek Township further contributed to the habitat degeneration.

This project is designed to control the ongoing bank erosion, reduce the sediment load and improve fish habitats. Natural channel design methods using the science of fluvial geomorphology are being used. Work on the project involves re-grading the channel to a stable configuration where necessary and employing a variety of rock and log vanes. In 1999, forty-two structures were installed on 4000 feet of stream with an additional 85 installed in 2000 and 2001. An intensive monitoring program to document water quality, macroinvertebrates and the fishery was initiated by Lycoming College prior to construction and will continue for five years.

Current CWI monetary support for this project is from: Susquehanna Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Canaan Valley Institute and Pennsylvania Delegation of Chesapeake Bay Commission.

  • See data for this project.
  • Specifically, click the appropriate links to view Big Bear Creek research before and after the 2011 flood.

Big Bear Creek Honors Projects:

Jud Kratzer completed an honors project entitled The Effects of Trout Habitat Restoration and the Cessation of Stocking on Big Bear Creek in April of 2000, that examined the impact of Rosgen stream restoration structures on Big Bear Creek.
Kratzer Abstract

Geoffrey D. Smith completed an honors project called Colonization of Benthic Macroinvertebrates following construction of Fluvial Geomorphologic Structures in April of 2001. It focused on the impact of the Rosgen structures on the macroinvertebrates found in Big Bear creek following their construction.
Smith Abstract

Nathan T. Holmes completed an honors project entitled The Effects of Rosgen Style Trout Habitat Restoration on Trout Populations and Microhabitat Selection on Big Bear Creek in February of 2004. Holmes examined sediment flows through Big Bear creek and furthered the study of stream restoration impact on brown and brook trout populations.
Holmes Abstract

Black Hole Creek Survey

During the Summer of 2003, Clean Water Institute interns assessed the entire 8-mile stretch of Black Hole Creek in Lycoming County. In-stream chemical data was acquired twice throughout the summer. All instances of bank erosion along the creek were documented and photographed. Fish were also collected using electroshocking techniques at two sampling sites. The pollution tolerance of these fish was determined in order to complete an index of biotic integrity for the creek.

2014 Update: During the summer of 2014, a similar study lead by Julian Jones was repeated at three sites to evaluate and update water quality and aquatic life above and below the White Deer Golf course and federal lands. The upper one third of the stream has developed into a class A brook trout stream while the warm waters created by the pond still hinder the trout population downstream even though some restoration projects have been completed.

  • See 2003 data and 2014 data for this project.

Buffalo Creek

Clean Water Institute interns are currently working on the Buffalo Creek in Union County, PA. The interns are completing a physical stream assessment as well as chemical and macroinvertebrate evaluation. The main stem of the stream will be the focus of the physical survey along with macroinvertebrate identification, while chemical testing will be done both on the main stem and on the tributaries. Interns currently working on this stream are Laura Lockard and Brad Musser.

Hagerman's Run

Two class A trout streams, both named Hagerman's Run (one a tributary of Lycoming Creek; the other a
tributary of West Branch Susquehanna River) in Lycoming County were sampled by Alison McNett and the 2014 CWI crew for the last 5 years and were compared to seven other streams from impaired sites. The Hagerman streams show high species
diversity when it comes to the macroinvertebrates but low diversity of fish. In addition, one of these creeks
is also showing some impairment due to erosion from gravel roads which may threaten its classification.
The seven other streams are tributaries to or part of the Sugar Creek watershed which is a tributary to the
North Branch of the Susquehanna River. All 7 of these streams had no trout, and showed low
macroinvertebrate diversity. All of these streams were located near, or next to farms, and there is a high
possibility that run off is being introduced from these farms, as a result of not using Best Management Practices. The
fish diversity was higher compared to the two Hagerman's Run streams. The water chemistry also showed
higher concentrations of Phosphorous and Nitrogen. Correlations between the chemistry, habitat and biota on these creeks are displayed in the data here.

Indian Park Pond - Limnological Evaluation

According to the Lake Assessment Protocol of the PADEP, the main concerns with water quality associated with Pennsylvania lakes deal with eutrophication, mainly cultural eutrophication. Eutrophication is a natural lake aging process involving the accumulation of sediments and nutrients over time resulting in a productivity increase and a gradual accumulation of organic matter and sediment from nearby watersheds. The succession of a lake evolves through stages, these stages from coldest and least sediment and nutrients to most are oligotrophic, mesotrophic, eutrophic, and hypereutrophic. Although lakes naturally progress through the trophic states gradually in a slow process of succession that can take thousands of years, severe anthropogenic influences can accelerate the progression to decades and is known as cultural eutrophication. This can result in an increase of nutrients causing algal growth and macrophyte (aquatic flora) growth. The increase in plant respiration, photosynthesis, and organic decay consequently causes fluctuation in dissolved oxygen (DO), pH, and biological oxygen demand (BOD). Many lakes in Pennsylvania are continuously progressing through the lake succession so studies are continuously being done.

The pond located in Indian Park in Montoursville Pennsylvania has never had an assessment done. From August to November 2014 students from Lycoming College's Clean Water Institute - Peter Gnocchi and Samuel Wanner - conducted testing to assess the ponds trophic state and analyze the health of the pond. The study evaluated the pond in the following areas: biodiversity, trophic state, water chemistry, zooplankton, and a complete underwater mapping of the pond. To view the full poster, click here.

Largemouth Bass Virus Research

The viral pathogen, Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV), is a member of the family Iridoviridae and has been
known to cause large fish kills among Largemouth Bass, Micropterus salmoides. The viral pathogen is
also consistently isolated from other species where diseased fish are found. Throughout the Susquehanna
River Basin since 2005, Smallmouth Bass, Micropterus dolomieu, have been suffering from wide-spread
disease related deaths. Even though LMBV is not clinically known to affect Smallmouth Bass, this virus is
prevalent among diseased fish infected with other pathogens such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The
question we seek to address is whether there are significant genetic differences between LMBV isolates
from smallmouth bass and largemouth bass. Lead by Shannon Pipes and Dr. Jeff Newman, total DNA was isolated from preparations of LMBV derived from smallmouth bass and largemouth bass isolates. Five LMBV-specific primer sets were used to amplify fragments from each preparation for conventional Sanger sequencing and the total DNA preparations are
also being analyzed using MiSeq NextGen sequence analysis. After we receive the sequence data, further
assembly, annotation, and analysis will be conducted to identify any host-specific variations. Current data can be accessed here.

Hellbender Research (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis)

"Living in Central Pennsylvania is a creature so unique, so prehistoric looking, it's hard to believe that it exists. Some say its grotesque, others become intrigued by its mysterious nature. The eastern hellbender is the one of the largest species of salamander in the world and the only salamander of its size in North America." --Sun Gazette, 2005

Dr. Peter Petokas has conducted hellbender research and surveying for over 25 years. Being Lycoming College's first research associate in history, Dr. Petokas has recruited countless students for hellbender field work and data analysis. Current projects include the installation of nest boxes for egg sampling, and studying the spread and effects of the chitrid fungus among local hellbender populations.

Limestone Run

The Biology 328 Aquatics class completed a fish survey in the fall of 2003. The class electroshocked a few sections of Limestone Run, recorded and studied the different fish species found in the stream.

  • See data for this project.

Loyalsock Creek Monitoring

In cooperation with the Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association, Clean Water Institute interns, Jim Rogers and Theresa Black surveyed the Loyalsock Creek during the summer of 2003. The survey included a physical study on the main stem of the Loyalsock including its major tributaries. The focus of the study was to take a snap shot of current stream conditions and also evaluate erosion potential for the creek in the future. Riparian evaluations along with invasive plant species identification were also included in the survey.

A coliform study was also completed on the Loyalsock Creek during the summer of 2003.

CWI interns continue to monitor ten stations in the watershed for water chemistry and macroinvertebrate diversity and density.

  • See data for this project.

Lycoming County Farm Project

In August 2011, a long term project started to monitor the water quality of three sites along an unnamed
tributary to White Deer Hole Creek (Lycoming County). This project involved the cooperation of 4 farms (3
Amish), the Lycoming County Conservation District, the Lycoming County Planning Commission, and
Lycoming College Clean Water Institute. After one year of preliminary water quality monitoring, the
Lycoming County Conservation District worked with farms to implement best management practices
(BMPs), consisting of riparian buffer construction, manure management, and no-till farming. Clean Water
Institute interns began a pre and post evaluation along three sections of the tributary (upstream middle
and downstream of project), collecting monthly chemical and physical data. Yearly sampling included
macroinvertebrate and fish (electrofishing) density and diversity. Data loggers documenting flow have
been used to calculate nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment loads. In 2014, data was compiled by Alec Minnick and the 2014 CWI crew that document some improvement to nutrient and sediment loads, as well as an effect on the biota present. Specific
evidence pointing to this observation includes the reappearance of brown trout at two of the sites.

  • The 2014 update can be found here

Lycoming Creek Erosion Survey

The Lycoming Creek Watershed Association, under a grant from PADEP Growing Greener, is conducting a physical stream assessment dealing with stream stability, stream bank erosion, and repairing and analysis. CWI interns, during the summer of 2002, were using a GPS unit and a data collection form to document the location of each site, bank height, bank angle, density of roots, particle size, stream width, length of site, distance from erosion to a structure, type of structure, and the number of pictures taken of the site, if any.

  • See data for this project.

A current project on Lycoming Creek include physical, chemical, and macroinvertebrate assessments. Standard methods were used to perform the assessments. Physical aspects included measuring stream widths, flow, and depth which were used to calculate the volume of flow. The pH, alkalinity, conductivity, dissolved oxygen content, temperature, turbidity, and aluminum, iron, manganese, and silicon levels were determined for the chemical assessment. Macroinvertebrate studies consisted of collecting kick and surbar samples, surbars were only taken in the Lycoming Creek itself. Samples were than analyzed for quantity and or content.

Mahoning Creek Survey

In cooperation with Mahoning Creek Watershed Association, Clean Water Institute interns, Jennifer Clark and Will Tumbusch are currently surveying Mahoning Creek and its four main tributaries. The interns are evaluating current stream conditions and erosion potential for the creeks. Data on fish habitat, invertebrate populations, and water quality are being recorded. Riparian and habitat assessments are included in the survey. At the end of the project, a report will be prepared by summarizing the data gathered. It will serve as a starting point for possible projects in the future.

  • See data for this project

Merck/AAA Undergraduate Summer Research Grant

For each of the summers 2000, 2001 and 2002 two CWI interns were involved in a project to determine leaf decomposition rates using a fungal biomass chemical index (ergastro). Big Bear Creek and Mill Creek, in Lycoming County, served as field sites.

Merck/AAA Undergraduate Summer Research Grant Honors Projects

The following projects have been completed by CWI interns working under Merck grants.

Emily Stricker with the assistance of Megan Zimmerman completed an honors project entitled Leaf Processing in Streams and the Determination of Fungal Biomass via a Chemical Index with funding from Merck's Undergraduate Summer Research Grant. This study assessed two Northcentral stream's metabolism of leaves, by quantitatively studying Ergosterol levels found on Sugar Maple and River Birch leaves allowed to incubate in the streams. Ergosterol levels are indicators of fungus growth. Their results were compared to stream conditions along with chemical analysis from both streams.
Stricker Abstract

Chistina Panko worked under the Merck Undergraduate Summer Research Grant as well to complete the honor project entitled The Comparison of Leaf Processing Rates in Streams, Percent Organic Content, and Fungal Biomass in the Summer vs. Fall/Early Winter. With help from Samantha Keener, Panko developed new methods to determine processing rates, percent organic content and fungal biomass. The study was similar to the one mentioned above, with the exception that Pin Oak leaves were also used along with the Sugar Maple and River Birch leaves. Below is a link to the abstract for this project.
Panko Abstract

Anthony Sowers and Jen Clark continued the research by studying the metabolism of Sugar Maple and River Birch leaves in Big Bear Creek and Mill Creek. Sowers completed his honors project entitled The Determination of Leaf Processing Rates and Fungal Biomass Via a Chemical Index on this study. Below is a link to the abstract from Sowers' honors project.
Sowers Abstract

Muncy Creek Monitoring

During 2000, the Endless Mountains Resource Conservation Trust received a grant through the CHP program to conduct a Preliminary Assessment of the Muncy Creek watershed, extending from the headwaters to the confluence with the West branch of the Susquehanna River. In addition, the Muncy Creek Watershed Association, with funding provided by PADEP Growing Greener Grant, hired two CWI summer interns to perform a physical assessment of Muncy Creek. The interns documented sites of impairment from the headwaters of Muncy Creek, near Nordmont, to its confluence with the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. Using a GPS unit and a data collection form the interns documented the location of each site, bank height, bank angle, density of roots, particle size, stream width, length of site, distance from erosion to a structure, type of structure, and the number of pictures taken of the site, if any. In all, 175 sites of the stream bank erosion and gravel deposition were documented. Currently, CWI interns are involved in monitoring water chemistry, macroinvertebrates and fish along the main stem of Muncy Creek with particular emphasis in the area between Nordmont and Sonestown.

  • See data for this project.

Pine Creek River Conservation Plan

The CWI is a partner with Endless Mountains RC&D under a DCNR grant to develop a river conservation plan for the Pine Creek Watershed. This is a two-year project (2002-2004).

Currently Pine Creek Interns will perform a variety of tasks over the course of their internship in order to assist in the completion of the Pine Creek Watershed Conservation Plan. Several sites along the creek were established years ago when studies on Pine Creek were initiated. The interns have revisited these sites and collected water and macroinvertebrate samples. Water chemistry data has been recorded and compared to past data from the same locations. The interns have also compiled information from past studies dealing with water chemistry and macroinvertebrates. After the internship is completed, the interns will have assisted in reviewing and rewriting the Water Resources and Biological Resources sections of the Pine Creek Conservation Plan, along with recording their own data collected during the summer for comparison use in future studies.

Rose Valley Lake - Trophic State Index

Rose Valley Lake is a 369 acre man-made reservoir located in Lycoming County and managed by the PA
Fish and Boat Commission for recreational fishing and boating. Since 2000, the Lycoming College Clean
Water Institute (CWI) has been a partner with the Rose Valley/Mill Creek Watershed Association to
complete the chemical and biological assessment of the lake and Mill Creek watershed. A major part of
this assessment is the determination of the trophic state of the reservoir. This involves measurement of
chemical and biological parameters following the protocols of Carlson's Tropic State Index as outlined in
the Secchi Dip-In. The first North American Secchi Dip-In started in 1994 and now thanks to the support of
volunteer programs and volunteers, the North American Lake Management Society, and the
Environmental Protection Agency, the Dip-In database has grown to more than 41,000 records on more
than 7,000 separate water bodies (not including different sites, such as along rivers and estuaries).
Macroinvertebrate, macrophyte, phytoplankton , zooplankton, and fish counts were completed in order to
compare to historical data. Trends found in the data suggest an appropriate amount of aging in the lake
environment, but also a negative trend in ecological health. Several threatening factors are present in the
area, including nearby Marcellus gas drilling, erosion, and other factors related to increasing amount of
human occupation/visitation. The full report can be viewed here.

Rose Valley / Mill Creek Watershed Association

Purpose: To protect and perpetuate the Rose Valley/Mill Creek watershed by balancing the needs of the natural resources with the needs of the affected communities through:

  • Informing the general public and organizations about the natural resources of the
    watershed and the value of proper lake, stream, and watershed management.
  • Promoting local interest through public meetings and outreach and developing local
    partnerships for the benefit of the watershed.
  • Supporting existing environmental rules and regulations and recommending
    standards for land use and developments in the watershed.
  • Identifying specific problems and, in partnership with local, state, federal and
    private organizations, seeking solutions.

Contact Jerry Zeidler, president, at for more information.

Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies

The Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies (SRHCES) is a nascent watershed organization whose geographic focus is the entire Susquehanna River West Branch watershed in Pennsylvania. The West Branch Susquehanna watershed drains an area of approximately 4,466 million acres, just under 7,000 square miles. At present, SRHCES partners include representatives from six academic institutions (Bloomsburg University, Susquehanna University, Bucknell University, Lock Haven University, Kings College, and Lycoming College), the PA Department of Environmental Protection, the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, SEDA-COG, Forum-for-the-Future, and the Geisinger Health System.

SRHCES Mission:

  • Promote collaborative community-based research opportunities between local organizations and colleges and universities.
  • Create multi-disciplinary educational opportunities for undergraduates interested in the natural and cultural resources of the Susquehanna River.
  • Develop shared environmental education curriculums that would involve the partner colleges and universities.
  • Design and promote a Susquehanna River website to be used by the college and university partners, area K-12 teachers, and other community partners that would act as a resource fro current and historical educational and community-based research projects.
  • Design and implement K-12 teacher-training programs using local community-based organizations and colleges and universities.
  • Create a model for other states by creating a multi-institution and multi-disciplinary education collaboration that connects undergraduates attending institutions in the Lower Susquehanna region with local communities and environmental organizations.

SRHCES Projects:

In 2014, Lynette Dooley and Dr. Mel Zimmmerman had a study published in the March 2014 issue of the Journal of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science. The object of this study was to describe and determine the water quality of the Lower West Branch of the Susquehanna River between Lock Haven and Sunbury. Sites were selected in relation to location of sewage treatment plants along this stretch of river. Water chemistry data (pH, alkalinity, nitrate nitrogen, nitrite nitrogen, dissolved oxygen, temperature, conductivity, orthophosphorus, total phosphorus, total dissolved solids, and turbidity) are presented from 2005 to 2013. Macroinvertebrate kick samples were collected from sample sites in the summer of 2013. These data were subjected to the EPA Rapid Bioassessment Protocol II (RBA-Family Level), Hillsenhoff Biotic Index and Shannon-Wiener Diversity Index in an attempt to describe water quality. All nine of the sewage treatment plants in this section of the river have made improvements to address discharge and combined sewer overflows (CSO's) concerns in the last decade. The overall quality of the water appears to have improved as a number of Chesapeake Bay Initiatives on sewage treatment plants has taken place. Noticeable success of the new standards for sewage treatment plants that have been or are currently being upgraded will need continued monitoring to demonstrate overall water quality improvements.

  • The article in full can be viewed here
  • To download the March 2014 issue of the Journal of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science, click here

SRHCES is currently initiating major projects on the Lower West Branch, which extends approximately 77 miles from Lock Haven to Sunbury, Pennsylvania. Major initiatives planned or underway include:

Unassessed Waters Initiative

This is the fifth year that Lycoming College CWI has participated with PA Fish and Boat Commission in the Unassessed Waters Project. To date the team from CWI has completed a total of 361 streams in the Loyalsock, Lycoming , and Pine Creek Watersheds. In the past two years, streams in the Genesee , Allegheny , White Deer Hole Creek, Black Hole Creek, Quenshukeny, Pine Run and Antes Creeks watersheds as well as unnamed tributaries in Tioga County have been completed. Data for this project has been logged into the PFBC Unassessed Waters Data set for consideration of trout stream protection. On average 50% of the streams sampled support wild trout and nearly 20% are considered class A or B trout streams. A breakdown of the benefits and and results of our efforts can be found here.

Waterdale Environmental Education Center

Located in the pristine and beautiful mountain valley of the Mosquito Creek Watershed near the Williamsport Municipal Water Authority Filtration Plant, the historic Waterdale Lodge is the center for a cooperative collaboration of public water supply utilities, academic resources, and local and state conservation agencies and organizations. The Waterdale Environmental Education Center is a joint effort between Lycoming College CWI and the Williamsport Municipal Water Authority, with Justin Potuck of CWI 2014 as head research intern. For more information, click here.

West Branch Susquehanna River Conservation Plan

CWI is partnered with the North central Pennsylvania Conservancy with their effort to develop a river conservation plan for the 75 miles of the lower West Branch Susquehanna River between Lock Haven and Sunbury. In addition, twelve monitoring sites for water chemistry have been established along this section of the river. Monthly monitoring is occurring.