University of Pittsburgh at Bradford Students, led by Dr. Steve Robar, associate professor of political science, will be canvassing the Allegheny National Forest starting in mid-May to conduct a full environmental analysis for the Pennsylvania Kinzua Pathways (PKP) proposed project "The Trails at Jakes Rocks."
Representatives from PKP, Pitt-Bradford and the ANF attended a dynamic presentation by the students, describing exactly how these eight to 10 students will accomplish the analysis for the 47 miles of proposed mountain biking trails.
Starting in May, students will break into two teams and will begin the work of studying, documenting, capturing on film and indexing all flora and fauna found within 100-foot corridors of the proposed trail network.
Photo submitted for publication
Working on PKP project
From left to right in the front row are: Yuxi Lin, Kelsey Krepps, Lachlan Ross, Nicolette Fruehan, Jamie VanAlstine, and Tianna Johnson. In the back row are: Dr. Steven Robar, Gregg Mirth, Erik Beeler, Dani Erdley, Tyler Bizzak , Nick Gier, and Professor Sean Gess
"These students will be able to provide more detailed information than would have been provided if we had to use our own ANF resources. We would not have been able to commit this amount of time or this amount of ANF resources to this project", said ANF Planning Team Leader Steve Dowlan.
Students anticipate field work to be concluded by the second week of August. Dowlan said the students will be prepared to hit the ground running. He and ANF Natural Resource Specialist Ava Turnquist have been working with the students for several months to prepare them for the work. They have reviewed safety, conduct, study requirements, ANF protocols and a detailed list of what to look for while doing the survey. Turnquist contributes expertise in identification of flora, fauna and unique habitats, and will serve as mentor for the students while the field work is in progress. Some of this preparation even includes periodic quizzes.
"PKP was blown away by the quality, content and the level of detail in this presentation," said PKP's Joe Colosimo. Colosimo continued that the students have exceeded all expectations in what they provided and the level of planning they have put into this. "Obviously, as an alumnus and adjunct for the University, I know first-hand the high level of professionalism and depth of experience in the staff. Based on what we saw today, the students are picking up on that and carrying the torch with ease. They have definitely raised the bar. Wow."
PKP's Ines Nelson and Coralee Wenzel mirrored each other's comments by saying "PKP and the Trails at Jakes Rocks partners could not be more pleased with what we saw and heard today. These students have an obvious passion for their future vocations and are excited to be part of this and we are equally excited to be part of this experience with them." The students are all part of the environmental studies and biology programs at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.
"These students will be gaining valuable, hands-on experience that will better position them in the job market", said Robar. It is not often that an undergraduate student has the opportunity to graduate with real field study and environmental research under their belts.
Dowlan has had previous experience in working with university students in Oregon and has seen the positive impact on both the projects and the students. "Working with these young adults is really a win for the project, the partners, the students, the ANF and the university said Dowlan and Robar. Additional opportunities to team up have already started and the group anticipates even more in the future.
PKP and all the partners have been working behind the scenes putting in place the resources to make this possible. In order for the students to work over the summer, the team had to make arrangements for housing, fuel to get to the project area, and a weekly stipend. PKP's Chris Hobbs said "some of these students will graduate this month and are foregoing looking for work in order to gain this valuable experience. Other students are skipping their normal summer employment to do this work." There are resources and support that had to be provided and these come at a cost. "We have been fortunate to have great community partners in both Bradford and Warren that understand the impact this project will have on the Pa Wilds region", said Hobbs.
"There is a need for more support," said Colosimo. Through the efforts of the partners, the team has been able to secure both the housing and the gas necessary for the project and have secured a commitment for the stipend. However, the group is still looking for additional donors to support the stipend needs of the project. "This is not so much a donation to a project as it is an investment in these students" said Colosimo. "We very much appreciate the generous support of all those that are involved in this project. The team is looking to secure some additional funds in order to lighten the load on the donor that has guaranteed the stipend so that we could proceed."
Anyone wishing to help with support of this project can contact PKP at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.pennsylvaniakinzuapathways.com. You can also contact PKP member Joe Colosimo at 814.730.2188. PKP is a Warren Gives participant. Any funds received during this online fundraising event on May 8th will be directed toward this and other PKP projects.