ETSU biological science professor Dr. Joe Bidwell has a lot to scope out these days. Thanks to a research development grant of almost 10,000 dollars, he's focused in on a special project researching a long term contamination site: the North Fork of the Holston River near Saltville, Virginia.
"It's long term mercury contamination and we're interested in understanding if the organisms that live in that part of the river exhibit greater resistance to chemical pollutants," Bidwell said. "Then if they do, what the cost of that resistance is."
The organisms to be studied include small aquatic insects called caddisflies, a popular bait used by fly fishermen and a food source for river fish. Bidwell tells us the research site, close to the old Olin chlorine plant, is close and ideal for this study. And its findings will be far from microscopic in importance.
"You can talk about human contact in the sense that if we're having a major impact on the ecosystem a human's capacity to enjoy that resource for fishing or sightseeing is going to be impaired," Bidwell said. "It really is getting at the question of what types of impacts are human activities having on water resources."
And Bidwell says there's no place better than ETSU to do this research project.
"I relocated from Australia to be affiliated with this department," Bidwell said. "There's a lot of opportunities for our students to get involved in research."