One of the great advantages of attending a university with
an urban campus is the proximity to internships and field
experiences. If that university is Gannon University, the
waterfront is only blocks away, which presents further
Holly Dill put both of those factors to work to design an
innovative research project that reflected her unique academic
Dill, a native of Ford City, Pennsylvania, is a double major in
biology and Gannon's new freshwater and marine biology program.
When she graduated in May, she was among the first class of
students to receive a diploma from that new program. Add a minor in
environmental science and you have a student uniquely qualified to
conduct research on the Great Lakes.
And that's just what she did, securing a grant from the The
S.O.N.S. (Save Our Native Species) of Lake Erie Fishing Club to
conduct water quality testing at the organization's facility on
Erie's Presque Isle Bay. But first, she had to find out about the
She did that as part of her work-study position in Gannon's
advancement division. Mark Gaeta, coordinator of capital support
is, like Dill, a hunting and fishing enthusiast. He told Dill about
the S.O.N.S. organization and urged her to get in touch with
"We have been issuing a $500 scholarship to universities for
years to help us monitor the water quality, fish health and
operating procedures during our hatching season," said S.O.N.S.
vice president Ed Kissell.
With the help of Gregory Andraso, Ph.D., professor of biology
and Christopher Dempsey, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology,
Dill designed a research plan. Twice a week, Dill took water
samples at the fish hatchery on Presque Isle Bay at the foot of
Chestnut Street, testing for nutrients, temperature, conductivity,
pH and dissolved oxygen.
"I took a pH, temperature and conductivity meter, and collected
water samples back weekly to test for ammonia and phosphate
concentration in the tank water," Dill said. "At the time, they had
brown trout and cold water fish eggs that require a lot of oxygen,
and need to be held at 50 degrees until they're fry. Then they can
be released into the lake as game fish."
Dill was required to report her findings to S.O.N.S., and
the data she collected will be used to create optimum conditions
for hatching fish in the future. That's good news for the region's
sport fisherman and the sport fishing economy they sustain.
It's also good news for Dill, who has been hunting and fishing
since she was 12, "trout fishing mostly," she said. "I would like
to go deep-sea fishing, someday. It makes sense. I've always had
aquariums and liked fish."
She also enjoyed the opportunity to conduct independent research
that brought her classroom studies to life. "I spent three years in
the classroom, and you need that foundation," Dill said. "Actually
doing it made you realize what you learned."