Misericordia University is located on 127 scenic acres in Dallas, Pennsylvania in the Back Mountain region of Luzerne County. The campus’ proximity to lakes, streams, and lush forests provides an ideal setting for biology students interested in learning about and protecting the local environment.
Cosima Wiese, Ph.D., professor and chair of the university’s biology department, has worked with many students over the years who share her passion for preserving the environment. Dr. Wiese is currently working with Michael Shuman, a young biology student from Ellington, CT, on three different water quality testing projects impacting lakes and streams near campus.
Regular testing of local water sources is an important step in assessing water quality and helping prevent problems before they occur. For ponds or lakes with a water quality problem, testing is an essential tool for diagnosing the cause of the problem and determining appropriate treatment options.
One of the research projects involves collaborating with a small non-profit organization that owns over 20 acres of land that serves as an outdoor learning experience for young children.
“We do 24/7 monitoring of the water quality of the creek that runs through the property. We are building a website with the data we collect and making it available to teachers so that ‘they use it as a tool in schools,’ Dr Wiese said. .
Another collaboration is with the Lake Louise Homeowners Association, which has seen an increase in algae in recent years. “They have a dozen houses by the lake. They have water quality issues that affect their ability to enjoy the lake. We’ve been working on this for almost two years now; we go out every month, take water samples, carry out tests and submit a report to the association,” she explained.
“Using a four-sensor system, we are able to take water from different depths in the lake and get live water quality readings. We bring samples back to the on-campus lab and do further analysis on nitrate-nitrogen, and ammonia levels,” Shuman said.
Dr. Wiese was recently contacted by another non-profit organization that provides outdoor activities for active duty military personnel, veterans and first responders. This 30-acre site is crossed by a stream where participants can fish. The organization was concerned about the water quality in the creek, so they take water samples every week and deliver them to the biology lab for analysis.
“We are looking for various pollutants in the water such as phosphates, nitrogen and ammonia, to see if that is what is affecting fish populations and the health of the stream in general,” said the Dr Wiese.
These hands-on research opportunities are just one of the reasons Shuman chose Misericordia. “I chose Misericordia for many reasons: the lacrosse, the scientific program, the small number of people in the classes. I like interacting one-on-one with a teacher. You are not a number in a conference room with 500 people,” Shuman said. “Lacrosse caught my eye, but when I came to visit, the atmosphere was nice, the campus was beautiful and it was a good distance from my home. I didn’t want to be too close to home, but if I needed it to get home in a day without having to book a flight.”
For Shuman, the proximity to the great outdoors also played an important role in his decision to participate in Misericordia. “I have been to many places around the world. Water has fascinated me all my life. Working with water, being around it, it’s always been a part of my life that I have When this research position opened up, I jumped in. There’s only one way to find out what you like or dislike, and that’s by doing it. “I’ve been looking at different career paths. I haven’t decided where I want to go yet. Finish it and that’s okay,” he said.
Misericordia’s faculty is proud to offer students the opportunity to explore a variety of career paths that interest them through coursework, research programs, and internships.
“We encourage students to keep their options open, think about what excites them, what attracts them, what they see themselves doing, and try lots of things. Sign up for a particular class, try a some research experience…that teaches you that’s not what I want to do, or wow I never thought about it but that’s cool and I really like it,” Dr. Wiese said. “I’ve had students working with the Department of Environmental Protection, the Fish and Game Commission and other organizations because they really enjoy doing this type of work.”
Students like Shuman who haven’t chosen their career path benefit from the variety of research projects available through the biology department and labs in the new Frank M. and Dorothea Henry Science Center, an 85,900 square foot building of $38.5 million with 15 teaching labs and nine research labs that opened in fall 2021.
“I love this new science building. I have nothing but praise for it. I have watched its construction. It has a lot more work space than the old science building. There are so many more labs The lab I work in isn’t t part of the regular lab area, so only Dr. Wiese, myself, and other students working for her are in there with no one else having access to the lab. The old lab space we had would only take up a small corner of the lab we have now,” Shuman said.
Shuman was recently awarded a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) from Misericordia University by the Vice President of the Office of Academic Affairs. The scholarship provides 15 students with a $4,000 stipend to participate in a 10-week summer research training program on the Misericordia campus. Research Fellows receive one-on-one faculty-guided research opportunities and participate in bi-weekly professional development seminars designed to prepare them for graduate school, future research experiences, and employment. The summer program concludes with two mandatory presentations of student findings, a 10-minute oral presentation in the final week of the program and a poster presentation in October for the entire campus community.
Cosima Wiese, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Biology at Misericordia University, Front, and Michael Shuman, a junior biology student from Connecticut, recently collected water samples from Lake Louise in Franklin Twp., Lucerne County.