Stephen C. Lawrence (left), chairman of the Lacawac Sanctuary Foundation, and George W. Gephart, Jr., president and CEO of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, shake hands over an agreement to form an environmental research and educational consortium at Lacawac in the Pocono Mountains. The consortium also includes Drexel University.
Lacawac Sanctuary Foundation, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and Drexel University today announced an agreement to form an environmental research and education consortium at Lacawac Sanctuary, a popular National Natural Landmark and ecological field research station in the Pocono Mountains.
The consortium will build on existing partnerships with leading universities and will focus on cutting-edge global climate-change and water-quality research. The agreement coincides with plans to construct a new research laboratory at Lake Lacawac, a 13,000-year-old pristine lake that forms the heart of Lacawac Sanctuary in northeastern Pennsylvania.
The sanctuary is a 545-acre nature preserve, ecological field research station and public environmental education facility in Wayne County that boasts over a mile of undisturbed shoreline on Lake Wallenpaupack, eastern Pennsylvania's largest recreational lake. Located about 7 miles from Hawley, Lacawac Sanctuary was once the Adirondack-style estate of a Scranton coal baron. The estate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The sanctuary was founded in 1966 through the generous donation of Arthur Watres and his family with the express mission of pursuing research, preservation and education related to aquatic and environmental matters. The late Dr. Ruth Patrick, an ecologist at the Academy of Natural Sciences, had encouraged Watres to preserve Lacawac because of its uniqueness and astounding environmental quality.
Lake Lacawac, a 52-acre glacial lake, and its entire watershed are contained within the grounds of the sanctuary, creating a unique laboratory for studying water quality and climate change. Preservation and research within the area is important because the upper Delaware River watershed serves more than 15 million people in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware and has been the focus of many public policy and research groups concerned with the environment.
Over the years, Lacawac has been host to a variety of universities doing environmental studies. In the 1990s, Lake Lacawac served as the baseline control lake for a large National Science Foundation study evaluating water quality across the entire Pocono region. Universities including Lehigh, Franklin and Marshall, Columbia, Temple, Scranton, and Pennsylvania State have sent researchers and students to conduct field studies at and around the lake.
Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and Drexel University in Philadelphia have been key partners in developing the consortium concept, which will specifically focus on global climate-change issues and water-quality research. The consortium builds on the partnership between Miami University and Lacawac that has existed for the past several years.
This new strategic alliance and the move toward a consortium structure, the result of two years of study, represents a natural evolutionary step for both Lacawac and the Academy, said Stephen Lawrence, chairman of Lacawac Sanctuary Foundation. “It not only creates needed focus on the important work being done by the organizations that have been seeking to make Lacawac an important hub for cutting-edge environmental research, but it also formalizes an informal collaboration of institutions that have performed research at Lacawac for nearly 50 years,” Lawrence said.
"We see this as a wonderful opportunity to work with Lacawac Sanctuary and the other institutions to continue the critical environmental research going on there,” said George W. Gephart, Jr., president and CEO of the Academy of Natural Sciences. “We also see this as great opportunity to partner with regional schools that are seeking educational and career pathways for their students interested in environmental sciences."
Dr. Joann Hudak, assistant superintendent of schools for Wallenpaupack Area School District and board chair of WorkForce Wayne, has been a strong supporter of the pathways concept, which she says has the potential for far-reaching benefits. “This partnership will help direct students to superior college and career choices and will give them a better appreciation of the natural environment and understanding of important socio-environmental issues,” Hudak said.
It is Lacawac's intent to focus on generating accurate and un-biased scientific data and analyses and informing the public of the results. As these studies relate to public policy, Lacawac is committed to a neutral and un-biased perspective regarding water quality and land-use issues and will expect its member organizations to remain balanced and objective as well, Lawrence said.
Miami University recently received a $329,000 grant through the National Science Foundation to construct a new research laboratory at Lacawac. The grant will also be used to acquire new scientific equipment that will be available to all Lacawac research consortium members.