Raise a Toast to Lake Erie: Faculty members partner with brewery and PA Sea Grant to raise awareness of aquatic invasive species

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend

On a sunny August Saturday, a half dozen fans are lined up in front of the Mysterysnail Speedway, a four-foot plastic box with plexiglass dividers creating race lanes for a field of ten large snails. They place their “bets” and cheer for their chosen snail, each marked with a race number on its shell.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As the oversized gastropod invaders make their way to the finish line, Dr. Lynne Beaty, assistant professor of biology at Penn State Behrend, explains why we don’t want them in our waterways.

“Mysterysnails are so named because females produce young, fully developed snails that ’mysteriously‘ appear. They’re a group of invasive species that originate in Asia but have found their way to Lake Erie,” Beaty said. “They compete with native species, alter nutrient ratios, and transmit parasites to wildlife.”

IMG_2579

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are non-native plants, animals, or pathogens that harm the environment, the economy, and human and animal health. They are one of the greatest threats to biodiversity and native communities of other species, and they can spread easily through unwitting human assistance and connected waterways.

Beaty and two other Biology faculty members, Dr. Adam Simpson and Dr. Sam Nutile, have been working with Kristen McAuley, lecturer in marketing, and Sara Stahlman, extension leader for Pennsylvania Sea Grant, to raise awareness about invasive snails (and other species) in the waters around the Erie region. Last summer, the team came up with a novel idea to reach adults: craft beer.

“Good beer needs high-quality, clean water and invasive species threaten our freshwater supply,” Beaty said. “So we thought a collaboration with Erie Brewing Company in Behrend’s Knowledge Park was a great way to promote AIS awareness because controlling invasive species can help improve water quality. We were thinking too that this might be an excellent way to reach adult audiences who are more likely to accidentally transfer AIS when they move boats to different water bodies.”

The group met with Erie Brewing’s brewmaster, Tate Warren, who was on board with creating a ‘draft series’ of special AIS-themed brews for invasive species awareness.

thumbnail

The first, Mysterysnail Ale, “an amber ale loaded with flavors of bread, biscuit, and caramel malt,” debuted at a launch party, complete with the aforementioned mysterysnail racing, at Erie Brewing. Visitors had the opportunity to try a new brew and also learn about many AIS at tables manned by Behrend School of Science faculty members and staff members from Sea Grant, a research, education, and outreach program administered by Behrend.

The event was well-attended, and the Mysterysnail Ale was well-received. It currently has a 3.6-star review (out of five) on Untapped.com, a website where beer lovers rate and review brews.

Three more brews are planned in the AIS series: a Round Goby Rye, a Zebra Mussel Malt, and a Hazy Hydrilla. Each beer will launch with an event to raise awareness of the AIS the brew is meant to thwart.

In addition, for each of the beers, a promotional poster will be developed that will highlight the beer, the flavor, and the facts about the highlighted species. QR codes on the posters, which will be displayed at Erie Brewing  and other locations on the Lake Erie Ale Trail, will lead users to even more information about the featured AIS.

Mysterysnail Ale is currently on tap at Erie Brewing and other participating Ale Trail breweries, including Lavery Brewing, Arundel Cellars and Brewing, Twisted Elk Brewing, Brewerie at Union Station, Nostrovia, and Erie Ale Works. For more information about aquatic invasive species, visit seagrant.psu.edu.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Students Celebrate Album Release

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend

PSB-Musicians_001
Dr. Joel Hunt, associate teaching professor of music and digital media, arts, and technology, and students, Alison Huffman, and Adam Boaks.

People of faith believe that things, even bad things, happen for a reason. Alison Huffman, a senior Computer Engineering major, recalls the injury that ended her college soccer career at Behrend through that lens.

“You know if I hadn’t torn my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), I wouldn’t have had the time to get so involved in music, so in some ways it was a gift,” Huffman said.

Huffman and a fellow student, Adam Boaks, a senior Biology major, recently released their first album, For Your Glory, at the request of The Cross, an Erie church that Huffman and Boaks attend.

The pair wrote and performed the songs, all taken from the Bible’s Book of Psalms. They also played all of the instruments and handled vocals, as well. When it came time to mix it all together, they enlisted the aid of Dr. Joel Hunt, associate teaching professor of music and digital media, arts, and technology.

Huffman, who is also working on a Music Technology minor, was even able to earn college credit for the project. Though the minor is offered at University Park, she was able to fulfill the course requirements taking classes with Hunt at Behrend. That included INART 258A Fundamentals of Digital Audio and a variety of independent studies.

“When we were trying to find an independent study topic for Alison, I learned about the album she was making with Adam,” Hunt said. “We thought it would be a great way to dig deeper into music production.”

After the album was mixed, Huffman and Boaks handed it off to a distributor for final mastering and to set the levels required by Apple, Spotify, and other platforms. The album was released this summer and is available on any major music streaming platform by searching for “The Cross Worship” and For Your Glory.

Huffman and Boaks will be performing live at an album release party tomorrow – Friday, September 10 – at 7:00 p.m. at the stage at Perry Square in downtown Erie.  

Can’t make it Friday? Catch them at 1:00 p.m. at Saturday’s West Bayfront Porchfest. They’ll be performing at 627 Myrtle Street.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.