Virginia Tech’s Powell River Project will host a conference on improving reclaimed surface-mined lands in Southwest Virginia’s coalfield region on Wednesday, Sept. 15, from 1 to 4:50 p.m. at the Slemp Student Center at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise in Wise, Va.

The 2010 Powell River Project Symposium will include discussions of water quality issues such as total dissolved solids (TDS), biomass potential of reclaimed mined lands using herbaceous and woody plants, wildlife habitat potential of reclaimed mined lands, carbon function of reconstructed streams, cattle production as a postmining land use, and establishment of the American chestnut on reclaimed lands.

“The symposium will feature Virginia Tech researchers who are studying methods for restoring mined sites to productive uses while maintaining environmental quality,” said Carl Zipper, mined-land reclamation specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension and director of the Powell River Project. “At the symposium, those researchers will communicate their findings to coal industry representatives, natural resource agency personnel and to area citizens. All who have an interest in these topics are welcome.”

The presentations will include the following:

  • Chris Fields-Johnson, graduate student in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, will describe his study of how surface grading and groundcover practices affect re-establishment of native trees on coal surface mines. Trees being re-established in his research sites include a genetically improved American chestnut and other species that occur in local forests.
  • Amy Carrozzino, research associate in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Science in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, will describe results of her study of bird utilization of habitats on reclaimed surface mines of different ages.
  • Daniel Evans, research associate in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Science, will give the first of two presentations on the potential of mined areas to produce biomass materials for uses such as energy production. His presentation will focus on woody biomass production on mined lands.
  • John Fike, associate professor of crop and soil environmental science, will give the second presentation on biomass potential for mined lands. His presentation will focus on switchgrass and other herbaceous biomass crops.
  • W. Dee Whittier, professor of large animal clinical sciences at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, will describe the performance of the cattle herd he has supervised at the Powell River Project site since the mid-1990s and the potential for livestock production on coal-mined areas.
  • Anthony Timpano, graduate student in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, will discuss his studies of aquatic communities of benthic macroinvertebrates in streams below active and reclaimed mining operations that contain varying levels of TDS.
  • Lee Daniels, professor of crop and soil environmental sciences, will review initial results of his research concerning TDS production potential of different types of mining spoils, which are the rock materials distributed by mining.
  • Robert “Trip” Krenz III, graduate student in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, will describe the goals and approach for his new study that will characterize key ecological functions, i.e. carbon processing, in streams that have been reconstructed and restored on coal-mined areas.

The symposium is free and does not require advance registration.

Since 1980, the Powell River Project, a cooperative project of Virginia Tech and the coal industry, has conducted research and education programs to enhance restoration of mined lands and to benefit communities in Southwest Virginia’s coalfield region. Its 1,100-acre center is a hub of research programs focused on developing practical, cost-effective solutions to natural resource problems in central Appalachian coal-mining areas and education programs operated through Virginia Cooperative Extension that put completed research into practice.

The Powell River Project works collaboratively with other educational entities in the area, including The University of Virginia’s College at Wise.



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