_GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT Environmental Policy

_Monitoring the Delaware

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University has been performing watershed and aquatic science research since the 1940s.

_Roland Wall

Wall is the senior director of Environmental Initiatives.

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University has been performing watershed and aquatic science research since the 1940s. For the past year, Academy scientists have provided scientific guidance to the William Penn Foundation as it began plans to focus its environmental funding on watershed protection and restoration. The foundation recently awarded a one-year grant award of $880,000 that will take the Academy’s advisory role to a new level.

The grant supports collaboration between the Academy and the foundation to guide the scientific measurement and evaluation of conservation efforts across a wide region—and to ensure the foundation’s other grants are coordinated with one another and with the larger context of regional watershed conservation activities. The Academy’s guidance will therefore influence the activities of other organizations working across the Delaware Valley region to protect and restore water quality.

“Our collaboration with the William Penn Foundation and the other partners in this project has provided the Academy and Drexel with an incredible opportunity to apply high quality science to a key area of public interest,” says Roland Wall, senior director of environmental initiatives at the Academy and project leader for the grant. “Water is central to every facet of nature and of society; this work will help ensure the health and safety of water and watersheds across the Delaware Basin.” 

The Academy’s role in the coming year will be to take baseline measurements of environmental conditions in designated sites across the Delaware basin. As other organizations work with the foundation to secure funding for their own conservation programs at specific sites, the Academy will serve in an outreach and mentoring role to guide the development of these projects. Academy scientists will also coordinate a process to identify research questions that might emerge from the funded projects. For example, some research questions might compare the effectiveness of different restoration methods.

Ultimately, the Academy’s scientific expertise and measurements will guide coordinated, region-wide work to address major environmental stressors in the watershed, demonstrate the effectiveness of interventions and ensure these efforts can be replicated at other sites.

“With the launch of new grantmaking guidelines, the foundation is focused more than ever on supporting environmental work that is rooted in data and strong science,” says Laura Sparks, vice president for philanthropic programs at the foundation. “With the Academy as a partner in water quality monitoring and analysis, we will focus on impacts that are both meaningful and measurable, helping stakeholders across the Delaware River Basin to better understand, adapt and innovate when it comes to a shared mission for watershed protection.”