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Protecting the Environment through Hands-On Science

Jessup students have the unique privilege of working alongside scientists and scholars through Jessup’s Institute of Biodiversity and the Environment (IBE). This interdisciplinary community of scholars and scientists study and help protect biodiversity locally, regionally, and across the world.

Thanks to the diligent efforts and teamwork between Jessup’s Chair of the IBE, Associate Professor Dr. Michael McGrann, and Placer County Supervisor, and IBE Advisory Board member, Robert Weygandt, the IBE was recently awarded $18,000 in grants and donations from several private foundations in the local community including the Placer Community Foundation, United Auburn Indian Community, and two other anonymous donors. An additional $18,000 match from Placer County is also forthcoming amounting to a total of $36,000 for this project. These donations and grants will be used to support IBE’s research that will help to restore the steelhead and chinook salmon populations in west Placer County’s Racoon Creek, Doty Creek, and Auburn Ravine. The money from these grants and donations will go towards equipment and compensating IBE scientists and Jessup’s undergraduate student research assistants. The IBE signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Placer County to do research that helps the Placer County Conservation Program (PCCP) make informed decisions that conserve our local environment. The PCCP guides and facilitates economic development while at the same time conserving Placer County’s open spaces, ecosystems, and species of conservation concern (such as steelhead and chinook salmon).

This project will begin mid-March and run through June and it is anticipated that the project will occur annually. “We hope this will be an annual monitoring and research program,” says Dr. McGrann. “The salmon population is currently in decline. It is an important resource for recreation and enjoyment. Salmon plays an essential role in the health and proper functioning of the stream ecosystems in west Placer County. We need to identify how and where we can restore populations throughout these watersheds.”

McGrann has enlisted a team of scientists to help with this project, including an aquatic biologist and IBE Research Associate, Dave Thomas, Jessup environmental science alumni and graduate student at Sacramento State University, Jason Peters, and several current undergraduate student research assistants in Jessup’s Science Honors Program. Using cutting-edge technology, eDNA water samples will be taken to a lab, run through a filter, and analyzed. McGrann hopes these samples will help determine the overall distribution of these species in the watershed and the cause of their population decline.

Through this salmon study and other IBE projects, Jessup students connect with professional environmental scientists in our local community and learn about the jobs available in this field. “There are great jobs, and lots of jobs, in the environment right here in Placer County. We’re connecting students with the scientists who inform our policymakers on decisions impacting our environment. They’re getting experience doing research and learning valuable skills to put on their resume,” says McGrann.

Through Jessup’s IBE, students are taking classroom knowledge into the “real world”. They are raising our university’s profile by helping to impact decision-making in the community and discovering ways to protect the environment as Placer County continues to develop.

For more information about this project, please contact Dr. Michael McGrann at To learn more about Jessup’s IBE, click here.

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