University Research Collaboration and Student Support

LJEA collaborates with colleges and universities across western North Carolina to help train students in environmental science and related fields and to conduct faculty directed research in the Lake James Watershed.

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A student intern from UNC-Asheville provided key mapping and analysis support for the completion of the 2018 State of Lake James Watershed report. David Penrose, owner of Penrose Environmental and adjunct professor at UNC-Asheville, developed a rapid stream ecology assessment protocol for LJEA , trained students and LJEA volunteers, and lead field assessment teams for the 2018 assessment.

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Dr. Mark Brenner at Warren Wilson College supervised an undergraduate research assessment of Crooked Creek and provides LJEA with (free) laboratory analyses of the concentrations of Chlorophyll in Lake James, in addition to serving on the Board of Directors of LJEA.

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Dr. Shea Tuberty and others at Appalachian State University supervised an Environmental Toxicology class as they performed a water quality assessment of the Linville River watershed which feeds the eastern arm of Lake James. During the summer and fall of 2019, LJEA provided over $6500 of support for UNC-Asheville students and faculty to conduct several innovative research projects examining the fisheries, aquatic habitat and water quality in several of our watershed’s streams and related their findings to the land use above the selected research sites.

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Currently, Josh Holbrook, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at Montreat College, is leading a team of students in a wetland study of the western end of Lake James and the Catawba River just upstream of the lake. The team is inventorying wetlands and describing their physical and biological features. They will also be conducting faunal surveys in order to determine the species that inhabit these wetlands. Student researchers Whitney Kincaid and Brenna McEntire, won 2nd place in our November 2021 college-level student poster contest, receiving an award of $150. 

Another graduate of Montreat College, Megan Frady, is currently a summer intern with LJEA studying invasive terrestrial species in the watershed.

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Western Piedmont Community College has joined our group of post-secondary collaborators. A recently retired WPCC faculty member has joined our Citizen Science Committee and three current faculty members are engaging their students in LJEA field studies and other programs.  At our First Annual Lake James Watershed Symposium, hosted by WPCC on November 10, 2021 at the Foothills Higher Education Center in Morganton, WPCC student Cadence Davis won 1st place in our college-level student poster contest, receiving a $250 award.

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Our university collaboration represents a true win-win situation. LJEA support helps college students and faculty design and conduct practical, in the field, research. Students get the opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge to field experimentation, along the way working closely with their faculty advisors, environmental professionals, and LJEA volunteers. The students invariably report that the work deepens their understanding of the environmental and aquatic ecosystems, often noting that it inspires them to dig deeper into their chosen field. Not only does LJEA directly benefit from the university research, we have also been able to build this network of informal advisors consisting of both faculty and experienced, practicing environmental professionals.

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During 2021, LJEA provided over $10,000 for student intern and faculty supervised research assistance for university collaboration. These funds, in addition to our continued use and support of the Environmental Quality Institute that provides State certified water quality laboratory services and data analysis, helps us ensure that we are keeping a careful watch on the Lake James watershed, how it is changing, and how those changes may impact the environment and ecosystems of our streams and the lake. Your assistance in funding this important program is greatly appreciated.