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$500,000 Grant to Benefit River Studies by Thomas More, University of Cincinnati

Duke Energy gave $500,000 to Thomas More College and the University of Cincinnati during an announcement on the Covington riverfront.

Each school will have $250,000 to devote to their respective studies of the Ohio and Licking Rivers. The programs benefiting from the funding will also support science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in Northern Kentucky and southwest Ohio. The money will be released as grants over the next two years to support fish and water quality studies, student internships, and summer training programs for science teachers.

“The University of Cincinnati and Thomas More College have created inventive frameworks for programs that will positively impact our environment and the development of the future STEM workforce,” said Jim Henning, president of Duke Energy Ohio & Kentucky. “Education and sustainability are the keys to success, and we believe both schools’ plans for expanding their water research programs will have positive, lasting impacts on our region.”

Water quality research and STEM outreach at Thomas More Biology Field Station

Thomas More College will use the $250,000 grant to boost its fish and water quality research programs at the Thomas More Biology Field Station in Campbell County and expand its STEM partnerships with teachers and students throughout the Greater Cincinnati region.

“The future of our nation depends on a strong and competitive science and engineering workforce,” said Thomas More College President David Armstrong. “Duke Energy’s support is vital to our continued work to engage with, educate and empower the next generation of scientists – today’s young men and women who have the ability to be tomorrow’s greatest thinkers and leaders.”

The Biology Field Station was established in 1967 and is the only station of its kind along the 981-mile river. The facility is home to the Center for Ohio River Research and Education (CORRE), which offers students of all ages, faculty and other visitors opportunities to expand their knowledge of the natural world through field courses, research projects and outreach programs that focus on the ecology of the Ohio River and surrounding watershed. 

The Duke Energy Foundation grant will allow the college to expand the field station’s aquatic biology and environmental science research by increasing the number of summer internships for undergraduate students. In addition, the CORRE will expand its collaborations with local high schools through the Thomas More STEM Initiatives (TSI). 

The outreach program comprises teacher workshops, student camps, classroom visits, field trips and more. 

As part of the TSI, high school teachers and students work alongside Thomas More faculty and undergraduates to conduct hands-on research and get a true sense of life as a STEM major and as a STEM professional. The program has successfully improved STEM education at the high school level by offering high-quality, educational experiences for both teachers and students. The program also aims to entice more high school students to become STEM majors in college – and ultimately become STEM professionals – by exposing them to interactive, scholarly experiences. 

University of Cincinnati project to monitor region’s water and create summer program for science teachers

The University of Cincinnati will use its $250,000 grant to complete the Great Miami Ground-Water Observatory (GMGWO) in the Hamilton Country (Ohio) Park District’s Miami Whitewater Forest – just northwest of Cincinnati. 

The observatory will allow researchers to more effectively monitor the water that comes from the Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer System and establish an early detection system for threats to the region’s water quality. Researchers at the facility will also partner with the private sector to analyze new water-monitoring technologies that one day could be put to use around the world.

The Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer System, which runs underneath the Great Miami River, stretches from Indian Lake – about 20 miles southeast of Lima, Ohio – to the Ohio River. The aquifer is the sole source of drinking water for about 2.3 million people in Southwest Ohio, including those on the northern edge of the Greater Cincinnati region. It uses a system of sand and gravel deposits to naturally collect and filter water. 

“UC’s corporate and community partners are helping our faculty and researchers expand the reach of their important work on water quality and sustainability,” said Beverly Davenport, Provost & Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Cincinnati. “Duke Energy’s generous grant will help expose students at UC and students throughout the Cincinnati and Dayton region to expert monitoring methods as it benefits the entire Greater Cincinnati community.”

In addition to monitoring the aquifer and developing a system to detect threats, the GMGWO will use the Duke Energy grant to establish a summer environmental research
training program for teachers. Twenty area K-12 science teachers will team with UC researchers for six weeks of hands-on scientific research and instruction in air and water quality, biodiversity, waste management and other topics. The summer program aims to inspire teachers, enhance their scientific understanding, and help them develop curriculum modules and ideas to use in their classrooms. 

Stick Williams, president of The Duke Energy Foundation, is a champion of community involvement and investment, and believes that community partnerships provide the best means for driving results. 

“I’ve seen firsthand how public/private partnerships can inspire and create a difference in communities,” said Williams. “These grants to UC and Thomas More reflect Duke 
Energy’s commitment to serving, improving and protecting the health and wellbeing of our communities. They’re investments in the ongoing and future sustainability of our region.”

-Staff report

Photo: Thomas More College president David Armstrong accepts the check (RCN)