Gannon University’s NEW Academic Program Makes a Splash Close To Home

Environaut_widePosted: May 23, 2014

Gannon University's research vessel, the Environaut.

 

Gannon University announces the creation of the Institute for Water Education, Training, and Testing (WETT) and the addition of a new academic program leading to a Bachelor of Science degree in freshwater and marine biology.

The Institute will enhance educational opportunities for Gannon University students in freshwater and marine biology as well as providing research capabilities and water testing services for local stakeholders. These groups, which currently provide more than $75,000 in funding for water related research to Gannon faculty, include the Pennsylvania Departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Sea Grant, the Erie County Department of Health and water authorities throughout the region.

The Institute can perform research and testing that can identify the type and concentration of human pathogens produced by waterborne microbes, determine the level of toxins present in harmful aquatic algal blooms, test for the presence and amount of agricultural, industrial and commercial chemicals of concern in water, identify invasive species in various waterways and determine the probable causes of tumors in fish and other aquatic wildlife.

"Gannon's location on Lake Erie, the expertise of our faculty, and resources like the Environaut make us ideal for establishing the WETT institute and offering a new bachelor's degree in freshwater and marine biology, the first of its kind in the area." said Steven Mauro, Ph.D., dean of the Morosky College of Health Professions and Sciences. "Presque Isle State Park is a major source of recreation and revenue where water quality is an issue. We had our first toxic algal bloom in Presque Isle Bay last year and we also have a fishing industry that is very interested in these services. WETT will continue a valued outreach to our community."

Mauro, himself a research biologist, and one of several Gannon faculty members who have conducted research in the waters of Lake Erie and Presque Isle Bay, also cited the research opportunities available for University and area high school students aboard the Environaut, Gannon University's 53-foot research vessel.

The new program in freshwater and marine biology complements existing Gannon University majors in biology and environmental science/engineering. The program will require a minimum of 19 credits in such courses as Aquatic Microbiology, Aquatic Toxicology and Tropical Marine Biology, a course taught in the Bahamas. Mauro said that there are approximately 60 aquatic science programs in the U.S., very few of which specialize in freshwater biology.

The program will be headed by Gregory M. Andraso, Ph.D., professor of biology, and will begin admitting students in the Fall 2015 Semester.

"If you are a high school student who is an outdoors person, who likes fishing, sailing, swimming--any interface with the environment, this is a highly desirable major," Mauro said. "This program is a perfect fit for travel and exposure opportunities, and we will be looking to add more of those." He also mentioned that the new program aligns students well toward matriculating in the University's growing graduate program in environmental engineering.