Penn State Receives Award to Study Effects of Gas Exploration

Penn State researchers receive a grant to study the effects of natural gas exploration on the forest ecosystem

University Park, Pa. — The Heinz Endowments recently awarded a team of Penn State researchers a $412,000, three-year, grant to identify and mitigate the effects of Marcellus Shale natural gas exploration and development on the forest ecosystem. The interdisciplinary research team, led by Margaret Brittingham, professor of wildlife resources, and Patrick Drohan, assistant professor of pedology, both faculty members in the College of Agricultural Sciences, also will develop land management practices and a monitoring program to reduce the Marcellus disturbance footprint.

Focusing on the north-central region of Pennsylvania, the research incorporates four broad components. First, researchers will use a database to evaluate landscape change as a result of gas exploration disturbances. Second, they will assess local and landscape-scale changes to the forest ecosystem utilizing birds, invasive plant species, and soils as indicators of broader environmental effects. The team will also develop an electronic field guide for onsite remediation and wildlife habitat enhancement at Marcellus drilling sites and pilot a long-term citizen-science based monitoring program to track changes to the physical landscape and biotic communities across the Marcellus shale formation in Pennsylvania.

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