Our laboratory is located at Point Park University in the Department of Natural Sciences and Engineering Technology in downtown Pittsburgh, PA. We focus on research relating to applied ecology, welcoming all students interested in field and laboratory experiences. In recent years, our students and faculty have participated in the following projects:

          (1) Watershed Research

          (2) Wetland Succession

          (3) Lichenology

          (4) Dendrochronology

In watershed research, we are studying the long-term impact of acid precipitation and human activities on the biological and chemical health of Fishing Creek watershed in Columbia and Sullivan Counties, PA. The research has contributed to a greater understanding of the impact of acid precipitation on aquatic macroinvertebrates in the region. In 2015, we began an urban study of aquatic macroinvertebrates in Allegheny County to investigate how urbanization affects aquatic health in tributaries to the three large rivers that converge at Pittsburgh.

In wetland succession, we are collaborating with Allegheny Land Trust to study the ecological changes in wetland vegetation that occur following the restoration of a floodplain wetland at Wingfield Pines in Bridgeville, PA. We conduct annual botanical surveys to study competition and growth of wetland vegetation during succession, in addition to studying the impact of invasive species. The results are used to assist other local organizations in restoring wetlands for conservation purposes.

In lichenology, we are investigating the application of lichens as biological indicators of air quality in southwestern Pennsylvania. The project began in 2008 with the support of a Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Wild Resource Conservation grant. The research suggests that the entire region of southwestern Pennsylvania is impacted by air pollution because of the lack of diversity in sensitive lichen species in Allegheny, Washington and Westmoreland Counties. A follow-up survey after ten years of the initial survey is planned for 2019 and will provide a look into any temporal changes in lichen communities. In 2014, we expanded the project to include a survey of lichens at Pymatuning Ecology Laboratory in Crawford County, PA. We are currently developing plans to study the affect of succession on lichen communities.

In dendrochronology, we are collaborating with Allegheny Land Trust to determine what environmental factors drive tree growth on Sycamore Island, which is a privately-owned island on the Allegheny River near Pittsburgh, PA. By studying the growth rings of a living tree, we have found that spring and winter precipitation and spring and summer temperatures are the most important factors controlling the growth of American sycamore trees.

Contact Information:

Matthew R. Opdyke, PhD (Curriculum Vita)

Associate Professor of Biological Sciences

Point Park University, Pittsburgh, PA

mopdyke [at] pointpark.edu

Last updated August 16, 2015.

Check out these four exciting projects in more detail:

      1) Fishing Creek Watershed Study

      2) Lichen Community Study

      3) Wetland Rehabilitation Study

      4) Dendrochronology

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