Research is at the heart of the Field Station. The Ohio River and its surroundings provide a working laboratory that spans scientific categories. Since our beginnings in 1971, Thomas More College has conducted a variety of field research studies for private and public corporations, institutions and agencies. Over the years, hundreds of former and current Thomas More students have assisted College faculty members serving as principal researchers on these studies. These opportunities for students offer real-world experiences in the fields of microbiology, water chemistry, fish surveys, biological assessments, and toxicology.
Ohio River Bioassessments/Monitoring
The Biology Field Station has established a long-term ecological monitoring program on the Ohio River. For over 35 years, this research has examined the water quality, habitat and fish populations around two coal-burning power plants currently operated by DUKE Energy. The primary objectives of these studies are to assess the aquatic ecosystem around the plants by examining the current composition of the fish community, the spatial variation between the fish populations upstream and downstream of the plant, and the hydrological, chemical, and physical characteristics of the Ohio River near the plant.
Drinking Water Protection: The Development of Early Warning Detection Systems/Protecting our Drinking Water
For the past five years, the Biology Field Station has collaborated with Dr. Joel Allen of the United States Environmental Protection Agency on the deployment of a stand alone, stream side water quality monitoring station (WQMS) incorporating both physical/chemical and biological water quality monitoring technologies with data telemetry, data analysis, and water sampling capabilities on the Ohio River. The very first pilot station is located at the Biology Field Station. This station provides needed information regarding design and other technical issues for stream side WQMSs to be incorporated into later work resulting in a water quality early warning system (EWS) network of WQMSs strategically placed throughout the Ohio River watershed for the protection of source water resources.
Climate Change Research: Controls on Nitrous Oxide Emissions from the Ohio River
Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a potent greenhouse gas that is accumulating in the atmosphere at a rate of 0.80 ppbv per year. Large rivers, such as the Ohio River, that receive nitrogen contaminated runoff from agricultural and urban land uses are estimated to be the source of 30% of all anthropogenic N2O emissions. However, this estimate is highly uncertain and riverine N2O emissions have only been reported from a few systems. To better understand the controls on N2O emissions from large rivers, Dr. Jake Beaulieu at the United States Environmental Protection Agency and our students will measure N2O emission rates and a suite of water and sediment physicochemical characteristics in the N enriched, Ohio River. Using stable isotope tracer techniques we will identify the microbial processes responsible for N2O production in the river sediments. We anticipate that this research will help refine the global N2O budget, which is important for the assessment of climate change scenarios and mitigation strategies.
Freshwater Mussel Conservation
Freshwater mollusks are arguably North America's most threatened and endangered group of animals. The Station partnered with the Freshwater Mussel and Conservation Research Center operated by The Ohio State University and Columbus Zoo, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, and the Newport Aquarium to understand the basic biology of imperiled mussels and assist in the recovery efforts of threatened/endangered mussel species. Specifically, the Aquarium staff has built a new 720-gallon tank at the Station that will serve as a holding facility of various fish species that are hosts to the life cycle of these mussels.
Thomas More students and faculty working with the USEPA and its contract staff have recently established a new aquatic culture and testing facility at the Ohio River Biology Field Station. The EPA and its contract staff have over 60 years of combined experience in the operation and toxicity testing of aquatic vertebrate, invertebrate and plant cultures. Development of the facility will include designing and installing a system to treat and deliver the well water to the various culture tanks. The water delivery system will use a 150 gallon tank to hold the culture water for aeration and temperature adjustment. Water will be delivered using a submersible pump and PVC water lines. Fish culture tanks will be flow-through, with all old water delivered to the drain, which feeds the artificial wetland. Pimephales promelas (the Fathead minnow-FHM) will be cultured in this system. Adult FHM will be used to supply eggs, which will then be hatched and reared out for use in testing, or to supply additional spawners for use in the aquatic system. Additionally, as the system develops, the freshwater invertebrates Daphnia magna, Ceriodaphnia dubia, Hyalella azteca, Chironomus tentans and Lumbriculus variegates will be cultured as well.
Stormwater and Wastewater Management
Sanitation District No. 1 (SD1) is responsible for the collection and treatment of Northern Kentucky's wastewater, as well as regional stormwater management. We have partnered with SD1 and established the Environmental Academy. Through this Academy, Thomas More faculty and students advise and assist SD1 biologists with their Illicit Discharge Detection Program and Watershed Management Program. Students work alongside SD1 staff in the field to inventory outfalls, assess habitats and conduct water quality assessments.
Emerald Ash Borer Traps
The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is an exotic beetle native to Asia. However, in the summer of 2002, it was discovered near Detroit, Michigan and has been spreading south ever since. The insect larvae feed on the inner bark of ash trees, disrupt their transport of water, and eventually kill the trees. This past summer, a group of faculty, staff, and students, led by Tim Carbol, the Field Station caretaker, assisted the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Kentucky in placing EAB traps throughout Northern Kentucky. Specifically, the group placed nearly 200 traps throughout 92 zones in Kenton County. The traps will be analyzed this fall. The goal of the trapping is to determine the current distribution of beetles.
The Center for Ohio River Research and Education has become a regional center for research, consulting, government, private industry, environmental education and community service. Students and faculty have worked with a diverse group of professionals with backgrounds in science, engineering, education and other similar disciplines. Over the past decade, we have worked with the following agencies, in addition to numerous other schools and universities:
See Related Organizations & Events for additional collaborators.