Lincoln College has been awarded a $3,645 environmental grant for watershed awareness from Illinois American Water. Lincoln College was one of nine initiatives to receive grant funding and the only college to receive funding.

The grants were made to remind consumers of the vital need to protect water resources every day for future generations, and were awarded to community projects that improve, restore or protect watersheds, according to Illinois American Water.

“At Illinois American Water, Earth Day is every day. Our team works hard to not only provide clean water for life, but for our communities to thrive,” said Bruce Hauk, president of Illinois American Water.

A total of $20,750 in grant funds were awarded and the Lincoln College grant was the second-highest amount awarded, exceeded only by a $4,000 grant to the Bolingbrook Park District. Lincoln College was also the only college to receive a grant.

Dr. Julia Ossler, Lead Faculty for the Conservation Biology program at Lincoln College, said the funds will be used to raise awareness of watershed protection and the impact of stream-bank erosion along Sugar Creek at the Campbell Creekside Outdoor Center for Environmental Education at Lincoln College, in particular by helping to pay for additional construction of the boardwalk at the site and an overlook above Sugar Creek.

“This a great opportunity to highlight the many ways that our Conservation Biology program benefits the larger Lincoln community,” Dr. Ossler said. “Funding from this grant will help pay for physical improvements at Creekside, while also allowing our students to perform hard science on water quality at the site.

“This will promote conversations among local stakeholders on how to mitigate the ongoing erosion and the importance of protecting our streams. The proposed projects will allow students and community members to observe first-hand scientific research,” Dr. Ossler explained. “Instead of viewing scientists as lab-bound people in white coats, students can see science in its many different realms and its multidisciplinary form.”

The Logan County Soil and Water Conservation Agency/Natural Resource Conservation Service will also play a significant role as a project partner, providing expertise and insight into the challenges and impacts of stream-bank erosion from neighboring areas.

The grant will help finance a number of projects, including a five-week project-based assignment for Lincoln College students, exploring Sugar Creek and the surrounding area to evaluate causes of erosion, mitigating factors that contribute to it, and the impact it has on biodiversity and stream health.

Student groups will create conference posters outlining specific erosion factors that they have encountered at Creekside, focusing on one they feel is most damaging to the surrounding ecosystem. Each group will outline a budget-limited plan that would mitigate the factor in question, providing a scientific justification and applying solutions that have shown success in similar situations.

The project will culminate in the posters being displayed at the annual community Fall Festival at Creekside to receive feedback from the community and invited experts on the feasibility of their plans, allowing students to refine their projects before

Other projects that will be funded with aid from the grant include:

  • Demonstrating stream-bank erosion control methods to local stakeholders in the community (landowners, educators, students, and college/university and scientific researchers) at a free, public conference;
  • Extending the boardwalk at Creekside to make features of Creekside more accessible;
  • Building an educational, interpretive display on the Wibben Overlook platform above Sugar Creek at the terminus of the Peoples of the Past Boardwalk. It will feature signage that highlights local land use and stream-bank erosion control;
  • Developing open-access multidisciplinary lesson plans that align with the national Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for upper-level high school students. These lesson plans will be available to anyone on the Creekside webpage starting in the 2018 academic year. These project-based activities will engage students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education using the nature center as an anchoring landmark for engagement. It will also will draw from the professional knowledge and insight of conference attendees from the summer conference.

In addition to Lincoln College, other grant recipients included: Foundation for Ohio River Education, Bolingbrook Park District, Nature at the Confluence, Inc. in South Beloit, Wisconsin, Pekin Park District, Heal the Hill Prairie at Forest Park Nature Center in St. Louis, Illinois River Sweep, Peoria Playhouse Children’s Museum and Senior Services Plus, Inc. in Godfrey.

Illinois American Water, a subsidiary of American Water, is the largest investor-owned water utility in Illinois, providing high-quality and reliable water and/or wastewater services to approximately 1.3 million people. The company employs more than 6,900 persons who provide regulated and market-based drinking water, wastewater and other related services to an estimated 15 million people in 46 states and Ontario, Canada.