Mercyhurst faculty beachin’ it at Presque Isle


Some Mercyhurst University science faculty and students are beachin’ it this summer at Presque Isle, but you won’t find them swimming, sunning or picnicking. One group is removing litter and monitoring beach and water quality while another is working with area high school students researching the habitats of brown bullheads.

Biology professors, among them Mike Campbell, Mike Elnitsky, David Hyland and Sara Turner, and student volunteers are working in conjunction with the Adopt-a-Beach™ at Presque Isle State Park project. Organized by Hyland, the Mercyhurst group adopted Budny Beach and has been making monthly assessments since April in conjunction with the Alliance for the Great Lakes volunteer program, which includes some 10,000 participants nationwide.

Volunteers remove garbage from peninsula beaches and also record data, from water current measurements to evidence of cladophora. Information is shared through the alliance, where it can be used to educate the public and help improve beaches.

“We do field trips and research at Presque Isle pretty regularly and it’s definitely an annoyance to encounter cigarette butts and other litter on the beaches, so we see this as an opportunity to help out,” said Mercyhurst’s Campbell. “It’s really a citizen awareness project in which people get to appreciate the beautiful resource we have in Presque Isle and what it takes to keep it nice.”

Campbell is also working on another volunteer beach project this summer as a team leader with the Enviro Research Camp, sponsored by the Regional Science Consortium and Friends of the Tom Ridge Environmental Center. The camp welcomes students from 10 area high school interested in furthering their educational experience in the sciences. They perform a week (July 22-26) of intensive hands-on research with professors from Mercyhurst, Penn State Behrend, Gannon and California University of Pennsylvania.

Campbell’s team is charged with conducting a comparative limnological study of nearshore and offshore habitats of brown bullheads at Presque Isle. They collect data, perform experiments and present their findings to parents, researchers, environmental managers, school officials and board members of the Regional Science Consortium at the camp’s conclusion.

PHOTO: (l-r) Student Courtney Legters, faculty Mike Elnitsky and Mike Campbell
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