Well-Restored Waterways Attract Engineers and Scientists to Region

In UB workshop, participants learn to work with nature, not against it

Release Date: June 13, 2008


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Professional engineers and scientists from New York and other states are attending an annual University at Buffalo workshop this month to learn from Western New York's experiences about how best to restore streams and other waterways so they can be enjoyed for generations.

"Western New York is home to a lot of streams that people care about," said Joseph Atkinson, Ph.D., director of the UB Great Lakes Program, which is sponsoring the "Engineering for Ecosystem Restoration" workshop. Atkinson is a professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

"We have a number of stream restoration projects here that are models of how to do it right," he said.

Atkinson said that that's why participants in the workshop have been visiting Cattaraugus Creek, Cazenovia Creek and Eighteen Mile Creek, among others that demonstrate successful restoration projects, such as preventing erosion and improving habitat and sustainability for recreation and other uses.

Workshop participants toured Eighteen Mile Creek, a major fishing destination, where the Army Corps enhanced the habitat for fishing, developed access trails for people who fish, put in tough plants to withstand significant foot traffic and stabilized creek banks.

Next week they will visit Beaver Meadow, and they plan to study Lake Erie during the week of June 23, doing sampling and studying the complex ecological networks in the Great Lakes.

UB has been working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for many of the stream projects, to help train new specialists in what Atkinson calls "ecosystem engineering," to learn how best to work with natural processes to restore system function.

In addition to its environmental engineering program, UB last year received a multimillion dollar National Science Foundation grant to train a new type of environmental scientist, who will learn by studying and helping to restore Western New York's many ecological treasures.

"When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began doing workshops around the country to train local engineers and scientists in restoring streams and other waterways, they were seeking an academic partner," said Atkinson, "and UB was the logical choice.

"In our workshop, we are teaching biologists, engineers, environmental scientists and UB students about how to restore streams and other urban waterways so that they more closely mimic their natural behavior," he said.

In addition to professors from UB and Buffalo State College, the workshop features nationally known engineers and scientists from the U.S. National Sedimentation Laboratory, New York Sea Grant, Ecology and Environment and River Research and Design.

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