U.S. Representative A. Donald McEachin and White House Environmental Quality Council Chair Brenda Mallory visited the Rice Rivers VCU Center Thursday to learn more about the facility’s climate research and conservation efforts.
During the visit, McEachin and Mallory spoke about the urgent need to advance environmental justice priorities and address climate change. Mallory also highlighted the work of the White House on the america the beautiful initiative to improve access to nature and discuss the importance of locally-led and community-led conservation efforts.
“It was an honor to host President Mallory in Virginia to discuss the important work of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and our conservation efforts here in the Commonwealth,” McEachin said. “We cannot address climate change without addressing environmental justice and prioritizing historically marginalized and underrepresented communities. I salute the work VCU is doing at the Rice Rivers Center to protect Virginia’s natural resources and prepare young minds for a career in climate research and advocacy.
“From helping to draft and pass the bipartisan Infrastructure Act to leading the fight for cleaner air and water for all communities, Congressman McEachin has been an invaluable partner. for the Biden-Harris administration,” Mallory said. “I am grateful to him for inviting me here today to see the remarkable conservation work that the staff and students of the VCU Rice Rivers Center are doing to protect the local environment, fight climate change and advance justice. environmental. These are exactly the types of partnerships and projects that President Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative is designed to support and celebrate.
The Rice Rivers Center is a 390-acre field station along the James River dedicated to environmental research, education and public service, and is part of VCU Life Sciences. Greg Garman, Ph.D., director of the Rice Rivers Center, said he views the center as VCU’s “river campus,” defined by its translational research that solves real problems, experiential education, and engagement. community.
“We are incredibly honored to share with Rep. McEachin and President Mallory our enthusiasm for the research and training we conduct at the VCU Rice Rivers Center, and to introduce our new research facility and entire river campus,” said said H. Benson Dendy III, President, VCU Board of Visitors.
McEachin and Mallory met with several VCU faculty members and students, who shared details about their research on air quality and environmental justice, bird conservation, oyster and mussel restoration, and more. Again.
Raquel Wetzell, a VCU master’s student in environmental studies, told them about her research with Rachel Mair, a project leader at Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery, to study the in vitro propagation of freshwater mussels.
“I’ve been toying with using invasive fish species, which don’t really serve a purpose in our natural ecosystem. So kind of taking them, drawing the blood and seeing if it can be used for the spread of mussels,” she said. “I tried with blue catfish… but it was more effective with common carp and grass carp. So hopefully we can use it in the future to make more mussels.
They also heard from Todd Janeski, director of Virginia’s oyster shell recycling program, Brycen Boettcher, VCU environmental studies master’s student, and Kyle Stoecker, VCU senior bioinformatics major, who described their work to collect oyster shell waste in Virginia and return it to the Chesapeake. Bay to help restore wild oyster populations, improve water quality and provide new habitat for fish.
“So far we have returned 80 million oysters to the Chesapeake Bay. This year, we hope to reach the magic mark of 100 million. Our goal is 20 million more this year,” Janeski said.
John Ryan, Ph.D., associate vice president for research development at VCU, said the Rice Rivers Center is a prime example of research being conducted at VCU, noting that in the past four years alone, the VCU’s extramural research funding increased 30% from $270 million to $360 million.
“We are well known for doing things in the medical field. You talk about the medical campus [that is] well known for cancer research and organ transplantation and a lot of addiction work,” he said. “But we are so much bigger than that. And so it’s wonderful that you can be here at the Rice Center to see this type of work.
McEachin and Mallory ended the day with a boat trip on the water to learn about local fishing and efforts to protect Virginia’s waterways and water resources.
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