"I am currently doing research in wetlands that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation constructed as mitigation wetlands to replace all the ones that were destroyed by the new road," says Dr. Pamela Silver, professor of biology, Penn State Erie, the Behrend College.
In November 2003, PennDOT completed a four-lane highway connecting Interstate 90 with the Erie waterfront. A portion of the road crossed the Penn State Erie campus. PennDOT asked researchers if they wanted to use the road building as an opportunity to do research.
"PennDOT has really gone out of their way to consider the environmental impact of what they have done," says Silver. "They have been extremely good about talking to the college to minimize the effects of having a road across campus and have gone out of their way to be as environmentally responsible as possible."
When building the section of road across the Behrend campus, PennDOT installed an elaborate drainage system beneath the road to collect all the runoff. The water goes to only one of the six constructed wetlands and eventually runs downhill through woodlands.
Silver is monitoring two PennDOT-installed data loggers to measure the amounts of salt that enter the designated runoff wetland and one other that is slightly affected by splashover from salt spreading and snow melting. The data loggers record salinity hourly.
"Salt levels in the runoff wetland reach peaks that are half as salty as sea water," Silver told attendees at the North American Benthological Meeting today (May 24) at the 2005 Joint Assembly in New Orleans. "We recorded peaks during the winter as high as 10 to 12 parts per thousand in the runoff