This blog is authored by the research lab of Dr. Christopher J. Grant at Juniata College. The primary function primarily of this blog is to convey information about our field efforts associated with research efforts to assess the impacts of Unconventional Natural Gas Development (UNGD) on aquatic ecosystems.
Pennsylvania and parts of the Northeast are underlain by Marcellus shale, which contains natural gas that can be extracted for energy. Harnessing this energy involves constructing roads and pipelines to access and transport the captured natural gas. Wellpads are constructed for drilling down to the Marcellus shale formation and a process called fracking helps to release the natural gas.
To date, over 10,000 unconventional (Marcellus) wells have currently been permitted in Pennsylvania and projections of over 60,000 wells by 2030 have been made, yet little research exists to determine potential affects on stream ecosystems. Since 2011 we have been engaged in an endeavor examining potential impact of Unconventional Natural Gas Development (UNGD) on aquatic ecosystems across Pennsylvania. All streams study sites are at various stages of UNGD, and we are currently assessing water chemistry, biodiversity, genomic variation, contaminant biomagnification (mercury), and trophic food web structure. This project is a collaborative effort and involves the Lamendella Lab from Juniata College, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Hazen Lab from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The Colcom Foundation provided financial support to help start this research endeavor, and continued support has come from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), Geisinger Health Systems , the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, and concerned citizens.
Click here for a list of recent publications resulting from this work.
Click here to find out more about other research projects the Grant Lab is working on.