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Juniata Researcher Recieves Grant to Study Sustainability

(Posted December 16, 2002)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- An environmental science researcher from Juniata College has been chosen to participate in an $86,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Consortium for Interdisciplinary Environmental Policy (PCIEP) that will establish a series of criteria, or "indicators," to show if the state of Pennsylvania is moving toward sustainability across environmental, social and economic conditions.

Paula Martin, associate professor of environmental science at Juniata, will receive $10,000 over the next year to fund two student researchers in a project that seeks to analyze 17 separate environmental indicators of sustainability to categorize which indicators are most effective at moving Pennsylvania towards its goal of sustainability. In addition, the researchers will use environmental, social and economic data to assess which indicators are the most appropriate for statewide use.

"The environment, society and economics are the platform that sustainability rests on," Martin explains. "If Pennsylvania's sustainability is to be improved, researchers must look at all three of these areas."

Each sustainability indicator will be ranked not only for its environmental effectiveness, but also for how it links to economic and social issues. The two Juniata research assistants that will work with Martin on the project, Megan McElroy, a senior from Silver Spring, Md., and Tanya Dierolf, a senior from Barto, Pa., will assess these indicators starting from databases established by the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

According to Martin, sustainability is a concept focusing on maintaining or improving economic opportunity and community well-being, while also protecting or preserving the natural environment that supports both Pennsylvania's population and its economy. The state DEP has established a set of 17 indicators for its Environmental Futures Planning Process that the Juniata students will use to analyze the state's sustainability profile.

Among the state's 17 sustainability indicators are: the number of lakes and streams supporting aquatic life; acreas of land; number of days when air quality does not meet health standards; the state's index of ecological diversity; the number of environmentally threatened ecosystems or species; the mean pH of the state's annual rainfall; energy use; number of businesses using sustainable practices; and the environmental literacy of Pennsylvanians.

"At the end of the project we can make recommendations to the state about which sustainability indicators are best used to track our statewide progress and see if we are moving toward the state's goals," Martin says.

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