February 9, 2024

Leap Day Lecture on Rewilding Landscapes Is the First Annual Mather Scholar Lecture Series

event flyerOn Thursday, February 29, Dorothy Merritts, professor of geosciences at Franklin & Marshall College and an elected National Academy of Sciences Member, will deliver the inaugural Mather Scholar Lecture on “Unearthing Earth's past, envisioning its future: Rewilding landscapes to improve ecosystems and waterways.” The program begins at 6 p.m. in the Sciences and Engineering Center and The Commons, room 108 and is free and open to the public.

Merritts is a geomorphologist recognized for her work on the history of landscapes and processes that shape them, including human activities such as farming, logging, and milling. She works with innovative environmental engineering firms on stream restoration projects throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland.

For this lecture, she will discuss the Oreville Mill (c. 1813) on Little Conestoga Creek near Park City Mall in Lancaster, PA, as a successful rewilding project. No longer in operation, this water-powered mill is one of many that lined valleys in early America, damming and altering streams, and unwittingly leading to the burial of wild landscapes that filtered water, captured carbon in soils, supported biodiversity, and mitigated flooding, erosion, and downstream deposits of sediment.

Restoring ecosystems and their many services can be done by removing several feet of historic sediment from formerly dammed valley bottoms to reconnect floodplains and wetlands with ground and surface water. This work has transformed understanding of the history of streams in the region and led to new stream restoration and dam removal practices.

A Pennsylvania native, Merritts joined the faculty at Franklin & Marshall College’s Department of Earth and Environment in 1987, where she teaches geomorphology, hydrology, water resources, and environmental geology. She is a past president of the American Geophysical Union Earth and Planetary Surface Processes Section, a fellow of the Geological Society of America (GSA), was a co-recipient of the GSA Kirk Bryan award for outstanding scholarship, and a recipient of the GSA Distinguished Career Award, Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology Division, in 2022.

This new lecture series at WCU is named for Sandra “Sandie” F. Pritchard Mather ’64, M’68. Mather earned a B.S.in elementary education and an M.Ed. in geography from what was then West Chester State College, and her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. She returned to her alma mater to teach in the West Chester Laboratory School before accepting a position in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences teaching both undergraduate and graduate geology, meteorology, and geomorphology. After retiring in 1999, she was named WCU emerita professor of geology and astronomy. During the University’s Sesquicentennial in 2021-22, she was selected as one of the 150 Most Influential Women of West Chester. A long-time supporter of the University and its students, she is also the namesake of the WCU planetarium. Read more about Mather here.


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