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Bookend Lecture Features Environmental Scientist's Farmland Reclamation Project

(Posted November 29, 2010)

Neil Pelkey, associate professor of environmental science

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Neil Pelkey, associate professor of environmental science and information technology at Juniata College, will lecture on a recent research project in India, "Feeding Sumathi's Cow: Adventures in Wastelands Regeneration in South India." The talk is at 4:30 p.m., Monday, Dec. 13, in Neff Lecture Hall in the von Liebig center for Science on the Juniata campus.

The lecture is free and open to the public. The Bookend Lectures series features afternoon lectures each month by Juniata College faculty.

Pelkey, who started a Juniata marine biology study abroad program in India and continues to serve on the board of directors for the Foundation for Research, Advocacy and Learning in Pondicherry, India, will describe a research project that would establish methods to transform degraded wastelands into productive arable farmlands that could provide fodder for family-owned cattle.

Pelkey and Eleanor Provias, a sophomore from Indiana, Pa. studying environmental science, worked on the problem during a summer study abroad experience this summer in India. Provias was funded for the project by a Goodman research grant. Although poor Indian families can afford buy rice to feed their family in most cases, milk and beans, which are the key to nutrition for children, are harder to come by.

The research project centered on testing methods that Indian families can use to transform degraded farmland into sustainable fodder lands for livestock. Pelkey will detail the results and also tell of the researchers' adventures in India.

Pelkey and Eleanor Provias, a sophomore from Indiana, Pa. studying environmental science, worked on the problem during a summer study abroad experience this summer in India.

Pelkey joined the Juniata College faculty in 2002 as an assistant professor of environmental science and information technology. He earned a bachelor's degree in economics and political science from the University of California-Davis and went on to earn a doctorate in ecology from the same institution. He has taught courses in environmental science and engineering, stream channel mapping, spatial statistics, animal ecology and GIS and remote sensing.

He was promoted to associate professor in 2008.

He started a study abroad program in marine science in India in 2005. He also has an extensive research career in India, where he researched human-elephant interaction in a wildlife preserve for his doctoral research. He co-founded and is a trustee of the Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning, an Indian scientific research organization that funds ecological research for young science researchers.

He has received research grants from such agencies as the World Bank, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.