Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Invironmental Studies


Monitoring the Susquehanna River
Sondes in water

Understanding how spatial and temporal variations in water quality and flow affect plant and aquatic life in the Susquehanna River is of great interest to Heartland Coalition scientists.  Since 2007 faculty and students have been assessing water quality and macroinvertebrate communities on the main Susquehanna River,the West Branch Susquehanna River in north-central Pennsylvania, the confluence area known as Lake Augusta, and several miles downstream from the confluence.  Their interests include mapping the conditions of the river bottom (benthic habitat) as well identifying key species, including periphyton, algae, crayfish, macroinvertebrates (mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies, worms, midges), mussels, fish, and others.

In 2009 Bucknell University installed two water quality sondes near Milton and Danville that continuously measure and record  water depth, temperature, dissolved oxygen, total dissolved solids/conductivity, turbidity, pH, and chlorophyll in the river.  More information about this effort is available on Bucknell University’s Susquehanna River Initiative website.  You can view the real-time stream of water quality information from the sondes at:


Unassessed Waters Project

Unassessed WatersMembers are also working with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to assess streams throughout the region for reproducing trout populations. This work began in 2010 and was expanded in 2011 due to the success of the project.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s magazine, Pennsylvania Angler & Boater, included an article on the unassessed waters project, and the SRHCES’s involvement.  SRHCES's work has also been recognized with inclusion in the Conservation Catalysts Network

Teacher Education Program

LabKing's College and Lycoming College have designed continuing Teacher Ed Program education programs for K-12 school teachers. The week long classes provide information and teaching tools on water quality, abandoned mine drainage, and river ecology.Based at either King's College or Lycoming College, the week includes classroom work, field visits, as well as lab work.

For more information on the program, and when it will next be offered visit the Teacher Education Programs website.

Mercury in the Susquehanna
Mercury SamplingGroup members are studying the distribution of mercury within the Susquehanna River. There is no known biological system that needs mercury, however, mercury is present in the River and watershed.Water Sampling This is a concern because high concentrations of mercury can cause significant damage to neurological functions and kidneys.

Due to bioaccumulation (the build up of mercury due to repetitive exposure) researchers prefer to test organisms rather than water for mercury. Using a Direct Mercury Analyzer group members are testing tissue samples from fish and small mammals to see how much mercury has accumulated. They are also looking at where in the organism the mercury is being accumulated.