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Casperkill Assessment Project to share new research on watershed at public forum, Thursday, September 20, 2007

POUGHKEEPSIE – For nearly two years, the Casperkill Assessment Project (CAP)—a partnership between Vassar's Environmental Research Institute (ERI) and local organizations and individuals – has been conducting research on the Casperkill Creek and its watershed. Now, the CAP will share this past year's water quality research during a public forum on Thursday, September 20, 2007 at 7pm in the Sanders Classroom Auditorium (Room 212) at Vassar College.

"Watershed protection is critical in mitigating flooding, controlling erosion, and preventing aquatic pollution," said Kirsten Menking, associate professor of earth science and director of the Environmental Research Institute at Vassar. "We at the Casperkill Assessment Project are committed to working in partnership with the community to protect this natural resource for the benefit of our children who play and learn in the stream and for the wildlife who depend on it."

Menking, as well as associate professor of chemistry Stuart Belli, Environmental Research Institute research associate Kelsey Smith, and Carolyn Klocker, water resources educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension's Dutchess County Environment Program, will present the CAP's findings at the public forum.

The Casperkill watershed is located within the City and Town of Poughkeepsie and extends from the Peach Hill area to the Hudson River, just southwest of the Poughkeepsie Galleria. Since the spring of 2006, students and faculty at Vassar have conducted water quality monitoring on a monthly basis, assessing such parameters as the amount of road salt in the stream, bacteria levels, and the extent and species composition of streamside vegetation. The goal of the project is to determine what the overall health of the stream is, to identify sources of pollution, and to work with local residents and government officials to improve on the stream's health and safety.

Over the summer, CAP members, with staff from the Cornell Cooperative Extension Environment Program, distributed a survey to more than 400 residents and business owners in the watershed. The objective was to determine whether sufficient interest exists to create a watershed protection group. Members of the public who attend the forum will also have an opportunity to participate in the survey.

More About the Casperkill Assessment Project's Mission

The Casperkill Assessment Project's primary goal is to use its research to make the Casperkill the best and healthiest possible community resource.

CAP recognizes that a healthy watershed can be an asset for the social, environmental, and even economic health of our community. The Casperkill watershed is a great educational resource, where students from local schools have learned about science for years. Through research, education, outreach, and involvement in local policy-making, CAP is trying to ensure the welfare of the watershed for the sake of residents, business owners, and the diverse wildlife whose habitats we share.

In the past year and a half, students and faculty at Vassar College have conducted in-depth research on the biology, geology, and chemistry of the creek, as well as the land use and policy decisions that affect it and, by extension, our community. Members of the CAP have presented Casperkill data at national conferences and are in the process of publishing a paper on their research in a scientific journal, all the while continuing their data collection every month.

CAP presented preliminary research findings at a public forum in September 2006. At this forum, residents expressed concerns about pollution, flooding, and loss of biodiversity. The continued goal of the CAP is to build a truly collaborative preservation project that involves both residents of Poughkeepsie and students and scientists at Vassar College.

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Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Tuesday, September 11, 2007