University publishes Stroubles Creek watershed report

Student researchers gather at a storm drain that leads to Stroubles Creek.

Student researchers (left to right) Erika Karsch from Lexington, Virginia, a student at Oberlin College; Caitlin Grady from Norfolk, Virginia, a student at Virginia Tech; Stephanie DiBettito from Kinnelon, New Jersey, a student at University of Vermont; and Tiffany Sprague from Harrisonburg, Virginia, a student at James Madison University, gather around a storm drain along Progress Street in Blacksburg that leads directly into Stroubles Creek. They participated in a summer-long research program directed by Tamim Younos.

BLACKSBURG, Va., July 19, 2010 – The Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment has published a history of Stroubles Creek, a waterway that runs underneath downtown Blacksburg and through the center of the Virginia Tech campus, and its watershed.

Tamim Younos of Blacksburg, Va., former associate director of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center and research professor in the Department of Geography, led a student research team in analyzing raw and historical data of the watershed. The result of their work, entitled The Stroubles Creek Watershed: History of Development and Chronicles of Research, provides a summarized history of the 9.2-mile Stroubles Creek and its surrounding watershed.

The Stroubles Creek watershed, a sub-watershed of the larger New River watershed, has been studied by researchers and students for nearly a century. Throughout the years, changes such as population increases and urbanization have drastically damaged this freshwater creek, which runs under the Drillfield and into the Duck Pond on campus. Town and campus growth, which have spurred extensive development throughout the watershed, have also contributed to a history of poor water quality in the creek.

The original intention of the project — to offer an interdisciplinary research opportunity for Virginia Tech students — has succeeded. Over 20 students have assisted Younos over the past 12 years in analyzing and compiling water quality data, field investigations, satellite imagery, and aerial photos into this comprehensive report.

“The major purpose of this project was to provide the opportunity for research and education to Virginia Tech students. A secondary goal was to provide information to the Town of Blacksburg and to Virginia Tech about problems in the watershed and how to remediate those problems,” said Younos.

Construction is currently underway to install a real-time water monitoring station on the Duck Pond inlet. “This solar-powered advanced water monitoring facility will transfer instant water flow and water quality information via the Internet to Virginia Tech classrooms and laboratories, and will capture the impact of rainfall events on Stroubles Creek flow and water quality,” explained Younos.

The College of Natural Resources and Environment and the Department of Engineering Education in the College of Engineering have worked together to implement this project. Younos has also collaborated with the Department of Biological Systems Engineering and the Town of Blacksburg on further watershed restoration projects.

Younos recently retired after nearly 30 years at Virginia Tech; almost half of his tenure was devoted to researching the Stroubles Creek watershed. He says he hopes to dedicate his retired life to global water issues and environmental sustainability.

The College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech, which consistently ranks among the top three programs of its kind in the nation, advances the science of sustainability. Programs prepare the future generation of leaders to address the complex natural resources issues facing the planet. World-class faculty lead transformational research that complements the student learning experience and impacts citizens and communities across the globe on sustainability issues, especially as they pertain to water, climate, fisheries, wildlife, forestry, sustainable biomaterials, ecosystems, and geography. Virginia Tech, the most comprehensive university in Virginia, is dedicated to quality, innovation, and results to the commonwealth, the nation, and the world.