James Houle, UNH Center for Freshwater Biology among 2018 Merit Award recipients

Three men, one in a blue collard shirt on the left, one in a light blue shirt and with a beard and glasses and the center, and one on the right in a blue polo shirt and standing next to a tree, smile and face the camera.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s New England office recognized four UNH Cooperative Extension staff at its 2018 Environmental Merit Awards ceremony on Sept. 12. James Houle of the UNH Stormwater Center was one of the individual Merit Award recipients, while the UNH Center for Freshwater Biology, which includes Extension staff Robert Craycraft and Shane Bradt and Natural Resources program team leader Jeffrey Schloss, was one of two organizational recipients.

New England is rich with individuals, businesses, and organizations that exhibit their strong commitment to local communities and to a clean and healthful environment. EPA is very proud to recognize these meaningful accomplishments,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator Alexandra Dunn.

The merit awards, given each year since 1970, honor “individuals and groups who have shown ingenuity and commitment” to protecting and improving New England’s environment. The awards are given in four categories: individuals; businesses; local state or federal government agencies; and environmental, community, academic or nonprofit organizations.

James Houle of the UNH Stormwater Center

Houle, program manager of the UNH Stormwater Center, was one of two individual recipients. According to EPA New England, Houle’s work and accomplishments “help provide clean and safe water to the region and nation.”

According to Houle, stormwater is an important part of future resource management planning. The UNH Stormwater Center provides Granite State communities with science-based strategies and solutions for stormwater management.

“I’m appreciative that UNH Cooperative Extension has been so supportive of these efforts. It proves that UNH provides leadership where it is needed most. This is a benefit that the entire state can take advantage of and is a great example of UNH’s role as a trusted resource and an institution that prepares our youth with a hands-on, world-class education,” Houle said.

EPA officials noted Houle’s “pragmatic approach” as a researcher and his collaboration with municipal stormwater managers. They pointed to his work with Dover city staff during the city’s Berry Brook restoration project, which included 22 site-specific stormwater solutions that met budget and staffing demands and pollutant load reduction and restoration goas, as a particular success.

Furthermore, the EPA stated:

Houle works on the cutting edge of stormwater management and watershed restoration. His innovative work has led to green infrastructure technologies and policies to reduce stormwater pollution at local, state and national levels. Most recently, Houle deserves recognition for his work in furthering municipal approaches to stormwater management. He is adept at bridging the gap between day-to-day department of public works functions and the academic world of stormwater. He ably takes “the message to the streets” so towns understand that efficient green infrastructure does not have to be complicated or expensive.

Regarding Houle’s recognition, Schloss, the Natural Resources program team leader for Extension, said, “It is significant that Jamie was recognized not only for his expertise and leadership but his exemplary outreach efforts. This is why Extension is excited about our recent partnership with the UNH Stormwater Center.”

Shane Bradt, Jeff Schloss and Robert Craycraft of the UNH Center for Freshwater Biology

The UNH Center for Freshwater Biology (CFB) was one of two organizational recipients of the 2018 Merit Award. The center’s team includes Extension staff members Schloss, Craycraft and Bradt, as well as Jim Haney, Alan Baker, Amanda Murby McQuaid, Anne Ewert, Katharine Langely, Nancy Leland, Jonathon Dufresne, Sabina Perkins and Sonya Carlson. CFB is a collaboration between Extension and UNH faculty and graduate students and agency staff.

Schloss, associate director of the center, said the CFB team’s research on cyanobacteria (formally known as blue green algae) is vital to protecting New Hampshire lakes. Cyanobacteria poses a significant health threat to humans, pets, livestock and wildlife due to toxins they can produce that can damage the liver and nervous system and, eventually, can cause cancer and neurological disorders.

“Our early research at the Center for Freshwater Biology over a decade ago predicted that cyanobacteria blooms could impact even the relatively pristine lakes of New Hampshire, and unfortunately, that’s been the case,” Schloss said.

“This award recognizes the efforts of the CFB in working with the EPA Region 1 and other universities and state agencies throughout New England to develop and implement a regional citizen, agency and university cyanobacteria monitoring and research effort,” Schloss added. “Our current research is focusing on better understanding the water quality conditions that create blooms that result in toxin production and the fate of those toxins.”

During the ceremony, EPA officials singled out the center’s work with the EPA and other entities in addressing cyanobacteria issues in New England.

According to the EPA, the UNH Center for Freshwater Biology has “been instrumental in ongoing research, and developing tools for understanding the global proliferation of harmful cyanobacteria blooms and educating the public on its impacts.” The center has developed tools that the EPA uses to track bloom formation and cyanobacteria development in freshwater. “Not only has the team helped advance the science behind cyanobacteria blooms and toxin occurrence, but they have dedicated time and energy to working collaboratively for improvements in clean water,” EPA officials said.