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 trout and aquatic macroinvertebrate communities in the region. It also includes periphytic algae surveys to identify phosphorus pollution from failed septic systems and stream geomorphology studies to measure changes in channel morphology due to flooding and droughts and how those changes influence aquatic fauna.

In wetland succession, we are collaborating with Allegheny Land Trust to survey wetland plants following the rehabilitation of a floodplain wetland at Wingfield Pines in Bridgeville, PA. Wingfield Pines was strip mined for coal in the mid-1900s and later converted into a golf course. A portion of the property was planted with wetland-adapted trees and shrubs in 2009 to facilitate the progression from a golf course to a natural wetland. We conduct annual botanical surveys of herbs, shrubs and trees to assess growth rates and survivorship. The research has shown a general shift toward invasive species and provides detailed records of growth rates for native and planted saplings.

In lichenology, our first study was 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 began a new project surveying the lichen community at Pymatuning Ecology Laboratory in Crawford County, PA, with future plans to study the characteristics of Cladonia species and the association between lichen communities and succession.

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 Environmental Studies                                                                                                                       Point Park University                                                                                                                                                         201 Wood Street                                                                                                                                                               Pittsburgh, PA 15222                                                                                                                                                          mopdyke [at] pointpark.edu

Last updated August 25, 2014.

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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