Aug. 9-29, 2002
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U.Va. gets grant for Eastern Shore project
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U.Va. gets grant for Eastern Shore project

By Fariss Samarrai

The Henry L. and Grace Doherty Charitable Foundation has made a four-year, $400,000 challenge grant to U.Va.’s Environmental Sciences department to establish an endowment for an educational outreach program on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

The income from this endowment eventually will be used to hire an educational specialist to work as liaison between Northampton County schools and the U.Va. scientists who conduct coastal research at the department’s Long Term Ecological Research project. Matching endowment funds, which must total an additional $400,000 over four years, also will be used to support the educator and for support of the educational program.

“We are providing the grant because of a combination of the enthusiasm of the project leaders and the innovative ways they merge education and environmental research,” said Walter R. Brown, president of the New York-based Doherty Charitable Foundation. “This work closely matches the charitable interests of the foundation.”

The program, which will expand an existing U.Va. education initiative on the Eastern Shore, is designed to help county students build knowledge of their local environment through classroom studies and field experience. The program brings students directly into the research process.

“We are already providing instructional support and equipment to the county schools, and with this generous grant we can expand and improve the program,” said Dave Smith, associate chair of U.Va.’s department of environmental sciences.

“We are working with the science teachers to develop educational activities that fit into the school curriculum. This program is helping the local students understand the natural environment in which they live and helping to increase their environmental literacy.”

U.Va.’s department of environmental sciences studies barrier island geology and coastal ecology on the Eastern Shore through the National Science Foundation-funded long-term research project. It is one of 24 such projects around the nation conducting long-term environmental studies. U.Va. scientists are monitoring sea level rise, groundwater flow rates, marsh growth and erosion, bay water chemistry, fish and shellfish populations, vegetation and mammal and bird populations.

U.Va. faculty members also teach a graduate course in environmental sciences field methods for science teachers at Northampton High School. The teachers are able to apply those credits toward a graduate degree and are better prepared to instruct their students in practical field science methods.

“The Doherty Charitable Foundation is a historical giver to the University, particularly the Law School,” Smith said. “They share a real interest in the coastal environment and education. We give our thanks to the Foundation for all they have done and continue to do for the University, and we are aggressively pursuing matching funds.”


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