By Amanda Burke
FITCHBURG -- The health of the Nashua River, the diversity of fish within it, and how often local residents participate in activities at the river were all topics of original research Fitchburg State University students presented on Thursday.
“The health of the river is a good indicator of the overall environment,” said Earth and Geographic Science Professor Jane Huang.
Huang was one of several faculty members who advised the students during the five-week, paid summer research project.
The students presented their findings before peers, professors and a few city officials at the President’s Hall. Research funding was provided in part by the Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation, Bank of America and the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts.
Students Alesia Burnett and Nicole Zwicker studied fish diversity at nine points along the Nashua River, discovering biodiversity was low in both urban and non-urban areas, Burnett said.
“It’s not just urbanization” contributing to the lack of biodiversity, she said.
A four-person research team of Jacob Elie, Robert Snider, Monica Liao Queliz, and Benjamin Borodawka studied recreational physical activity among local adults.
The team looked at the prevalence of “physical recreational activity” among participants, assessing trends among socio-economic and racial groups and barriers to accessing the city’s parks and trails.
The students found lower rates of activity among racial and ethnic minorities, according to Liao Queliz. In many cases, participants lacked transportation to areas for outdoor recreation or didn’t know about them.
“Public transportation is a big factor for a lot of people,” said Elie, adding that future research could focus on spreading awareness of public parks and increasing access to public transportation.
Another research duo, Heather Bosworth and Chelsea Lashua, simulated the conditions of the Nashua River found in urban and non-urban areas.
By measuring plant respiration and the presence of biological matter, the students showed that streams running through rural and forested areas are more “healthy” than urban waterways.
“The more urban a stream is, the more polluted the water,” said Lashua.
Emmanuella Agyemang, Rachel Bordieri, Camila Perlas De Leon, Alexander Joscelyn and Lily Price studied overall health in Fitchburg. Anne Saball, a student research mentor, presented research on the health of the Nashua River watershed, and Samuel Gallagher studied how land on it.
Caroline Anderson used a digital simulation to show how various levels of flooding would impact the city, finding its southeast area is the most vulnerable.
Samantha Richard found the presence of microplastics in the river, and Jack Gangemi and Benjamin McGuire presented original research on water quality of the watershed.