Penn State and the IECA

by Dave Snyder, CPESC - Hanes Geo Components

I have greatly enjoyed being involved with the erosion control industry over the last 30+ years.   As I have told my young sons, it is pretty cool that Dad's job involves doing something good for the environment.

Last October, at the Great Rivers IECA Conference in Kansas City, I heard former IECA President Brock Peters give an update on the current state of the International Erosion Control Association (IECA).  It was an enlightening presentation. Brock’s talk inspired me to make a positive impact on the erosion control industry. I decided to combine two important parts of my life: the IECA and Penn State, my alma mater.
I knew little about the IECA's University Partners program.  To my knowledge, the IECA and Penn State had not come together.  This was my calling. I told Brock at the KC meeting of my desire to get involved.  Joanna Fetherolf of the IECA quickly connected me with Dr. Heather Gall, Assistant Professor Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Penn State. 

In the first of our many phone conversations, Dr. Gall and I discussed the IECA, the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the IECA and her Penn State students.  I had forgotten that Dr. Gall had been a speaker at the 2013 MAC IECA conference in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.  Long-time members of the MAC IECA will remember that Penn State’s Dr. Al Jarrett was a frequent and a very popular speaker at many MAC IECA conferences.  I quickly became impressed with Dr. Gall's knowledge of the erosion control industry.  Her fall courses have names such as Design of Stormwater and Erosion Control Facilities and Measurement and Monitoring of Hydrologic Systems.  Her individual class topics include titles such as Stormwater Low Impact Development Best Management Practices, Sediment Removal & Dewatering Time and Water Quality Data – Accessing, Processing, & Interpreting.  Great topics -  she is my kind of professor!  The IECA informed Dr. Gall of the special membership offer that was available to college students.  The students could join for FREE; this was possible through the Jerry Fifield Student membership scholarship program sponsored by Profile Products and StormCon LLC. .

Another benefit to students has been the scholarship program of the MAC IECA.  For many years, the MAC IECA has offered scholarship money to assist undergraduate students within a designated field of study associated with erosion and sediment control.  The applicant must be a declared major at an accredited 4-year college or university located in the Mid-Atlantic region: Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware or the District of Columbia.  The applicant must have a career direction related to the field of Stormwater Management or the Erosion and Sediment Control industry. (Other possible fields of study could include environmental science, earth studies or earth science, agricultural and civil engineering, soil science, agronomy, geology, hydrology, construction technology, forestry, agricultural science or marine science.)

To be helpful to Penn State and its students, Dr. Gall and I decided that a visit by me to the campus would be mutually beneficial.   We picked dates in early April.  Sharan Wilson and Joanna Fetherolf of the IECA were EXTREMELY helpful to me as I prepared for this visit.  They provided for me the same IECA PowerPoint presentation which I saw in Kansas City.  Charlie Riling, of IECA and MAC IECA fame, provided for me a University Partners PowerPoint presentation. 

My visit to Penn State in early April was absolutely fantastic.  The University Park Campus, the faculty and students are quite impressive.  Dr. Gall was a pleasure  to work with. Now I call her, Heather.

 Heather gathered many of her students for an evening reception; it was here that I gave my two PowerPoint presentations and  discussed the IECA, the IECA’s University Partners program, the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the IECA and the erosion control industry from a businessman’s perspective.   I discussed career opportunities which involve erosion control.  (Heather and I are absolutely committed to helping students get jobs.)    Heather and I learned that, of those students attending, all the seniors had jobs upon graduation and all the juniors had internship offers for the summer, which was great news!  Heather and I agreed that we may need to focus our attention on younger students.  I was able to meet Brittany Ayers and Ethan Bauer – both Penn State Students and MAC IECA scholarship winners.  Heather also connected me with other key Penn State people:

Ming Xiao, Ph.D., P.E.  –      Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering

Dr. Xiao surprised me with his knowledge of the IECA.  I was amazed at the large number of erosion control industry people he knew.   He gave me a tour of the impressive Civil Engineering Laboratory.   He showed me his book: Geotechnical Engineering Design.  Dr. Xiao also had me speak to one of his classes – about the IECA and future professional opportunities.

Cibin Raj, Ph.D. -  Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Cibin’s career path to Penn State is fascinating.  He is from India.  He worked in industry before coming to the US to pursue his PhD.  Cibin explained his class: Watershed Modeling for Water Quality Design, which he taught for the first time at Penn State this past Spring. He was enthusiastic about the erosion control industry.   I enjoyed our conversation over a beer at the Happy Valley Brewery.  I expect to work with him in the future.

Megan Marshall, Ph.D. -  Senior Instructor and Biological Engineering Program Coordinator,  Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Megan is the undergraduate program coordinator, essentially serving as an undergraduate career counselor to the Biological Engineering students.  I was impressed with her commitment to her students. She teaches many of the core required classes in the major, including co-teaching the capstone design course series. I am looking forward to finding ways to connect with seniors to sponsor design projects related to erosion and sediment control.

Malcolm Taylor, Ph.D.,  P.E.  -   Instructor / Research Associate, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Malcolm has a fantastic work history.  He has worked in private industry and the public sector.  He certainly brings great experience to Penn State, where he is currently working as a post-doctoral researcher and an instructor for a soil and water resources course. His industry experience brings a much-needed perspective into the classroom.  He can help students learn the skills they need for jobs when they graduate.

Steven Bloser  -  Director, Center for Dirt & Gravel Roads, Larsen Transportation Institute                     

Actually, I have known Steve and the Center for many years.  I was thrilled to introduce Steve to Heather.  Heather and I were lucky that the Center happened to be holding an event on campus:  Successes in Rural Road Maintenance and Ecology Symposium.  The symposium celebrated the Center’s inception and twenty years of effectiveness.   In short, the Center focuses on dirt and gravel roads projects as they relate to environmental challenges.  There is SO MUCH to the Center; It deserves its own article.

Heather and I visited a local construction project.  Each one of us did what came naturally:  we monitored the effectiveness of the erosion and sediment control practices.  We are such E & SC Geeks…. Later, Heather showed me a well-functioning rain garden.  The rain garden is next to student housing and the intramural building - giving it high visibility to the entire Penn State Community. 

In our last meeting,  Heather, Cibin and I reviewed our fall schedules with the idea of meeting again.  We discussed future conferences and opportunities for Penn State and the IECA to help one-another.  I look forward to the prospect to serve both Penn State and the IECA.

Dr. Gall at Rain Garden

Dr. Ming Xiao

Dave Snyder with students at reception

Dr. Gall gathering product usage pictures

Heather Gall and Steve Bloser

Dr. Gall with students at reception

Dr. Gall Monitoring product use at a local job site

Malcolm Taylor