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Research work planned

Huntingdon resident Evan Quinn and a team of researchers have been investigating the effects of ocean acidification on phytoplankton, a key food source for ocean ecosystems, at Juniata College.

The research specifically addresses coccolithophors, nicknamed “coccos” for short.

“Coccos are like small, chalky soccer balls,” said Quinn. “They calcify just like coral. They’re phytoplankton. They’re super important because they take CO2 out of the environment and transport them to water column.”

Although difficult to conceptualize in themselves, phytoplankton keep the ecosystems of the oceans functioning.

“They (phytoplankton) are the energy source for the whole system,” said Quinn. “They get eaten by zoo plankton which get eaten by macro-organisms that get eaten by fish. It’s hard to picture how important they are because you can’t see them, but they’re essential.”

The team of researchers, comprised of Quinn, a recent Juniata College graduate with a degree in marine biology, and his advisers Dr. Neil Pelkey, a professor of environmental studies, and Dr. Sonia Bejarano Head of the Reef Systems Workgroup at Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research, hypothesize that ocean acidification will negatively affect the plankton community.

“Climate change is making the oceans warmer and because there’s more CO2 in the atmosphere, there’s more CO2 and carbon absorbed in the ocean,” said Quinn. “When water interacts with CO2 it turns into hydrogen ions which makes the ocean more acidic. Which is bad, which makes things like coral, snails, anything that has a shell. What worrisome is that as CO2 keeps going up the coccos won’t be able to build their shells as well.”

We are starting to see signs that the decrease in phytoplankton may have significant effects on coastal regions.

“For people that are living on the coast that really depend on fisheries or the tourist industry, it’s not certain whether the fisheries will start to collapse where phytoplankton has started to go down,” he said. “A few fisheries where the phytoplankton has gone down the fish population has started to decline because everything underneath them is starting to crash.”

Quinn hopes the research that started at the end of October will continue on a larger scale at the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Ecology in Bremen, Germany starting in January 2020 and finishing at the end of April 2020.

“The plan is that we’re going to do a field sample as well as order some coccolithophore and put them under ocean acidification. Everyone is just looking at coccolithophore, no one is looking at the broader picture and what that means for the natural environment. That’s what we want to investigate,” said Quinn.

The future research currently hinges on raising enough funds in the next six days to cover travel expenses to Germany and materials required to conduct the research.

As of the time of publication, $1,130 of the $1,900 needed for the research has been raised.

“I want to stress this is an all or nothing campaign, so if we don’t hit 100% then we don’t receive any of the money,” said Quinn.

A fundraising dinner will be held from 5-9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, at Stone Town Gallery.

The event will have live music and proceeds from the dinner will go towards meeting the $1,900 fundraising goal.

For more information on the research project and to contribute to the fundraising campaign you can visit: https://experiment.com/projects/how-does-ocean-acidification-affect-carbon-dioxide-sequestration-in-coccolithophores.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

Fire leaves Mount Union family homeless

Two adults and a teenager were left homeless following a fire in Mount Union Borough Saturday morning.

The fire broke out in an apartment at Chestnut Terrace, 14000 Wrangletown Road in Mount Union around 8 a.m. Saturday.

Mount Union fire chief Jack Fortney said all three occupants made it out of the apartment without major injury.

“The mother apparently woke up to fire in the apartment,” Fortney said. “The occupants made sure to close the door behind them, so the fire wouldn’t spread. They did exactly what they had to do.”

According to Fortney, the cause of the fire has yet to be determined. All that is known is that the fire began in the kitchen.

Challenges fighting the fire were nonexistent thanks to a large turnout of local firefighters.

“We had an outstanding turnout that morning,” Fortney said. “Manpower was not an issue.”

Assisting Mount Union volunteers at the scene were crews from Newton Wayne, Three Springs, Mill Creek and Orbisonia-Rockhill volunteer fire companies, Huntingdon Regional Fire & Rescue and McVeytown EMS.

All companies were cleared from the scene by 9:34 a.m.

Fortney reported that adjacent apartments suffered some damage as well.

“The fire took place in apartment unit C5,” Fortney said. “We had to break through the wall of C4 to fight the fire. C6 sustained minor water and smoke damage.”

Thankfully, no one was living in unit C4 at the time of the fire.

Given that the damages to unit C6 were minor, the living capacity of the unity was not affected.

Fortney confirmed the state police fire marshal has visited the scene.

Fortney also confirmed that the Red Cross has contacted the apartment’s occupants to offer assistance.

“The Red Cross has been in touch,” Fortney said. “They will help get them a place to stay.”

Shade Gap volunteers also responded to a fire, this one was at 16410 Shade Valley Road in Tell Township shortly after noon Nov. 15.

According to a post on the official Shade Gap Area Volunteer Fire Co. Facebook page, the company was alerted to a shed/storage building fire at around 12:15 p.m. Crews spent five hours on the call from dispatch to final cleanup at the station.

Although no one was injured, the victims lost a substantial amount of property, including tractors, wagons, a crawler, recreational vehicles, assorted tools and equipment. Assisting Shade Gap volunteers at the scene were units from Huntingdon, Franklin, Fulton and Juniata counties.

“I’ve had no contact with the homeowners since Friday,” said Shade Gap fire chief Rick McMullen said. “They are going through their insurance right now. I won’t hear back unless they have questions.”

Joshua can be reached at jblattenberger@huntingdondailynews.com.


With temperatures hovering in the mid-30s and the Real Feel temperature 20 degrees, Salvation Army Auxiliary Captain Philip Bender took a dip in Raystown Lake Saturday morning. Bender collected less toys (32) than his wife, Auxiliary Captain Charity Bender, who collected 39, during a toy drive at Walmart Nov. 9. The Benders thanked everyone who contributed during the event, noting the toys will go toward the Treasures for Children distribution. “We can’t do it without the community’s help,” said Charity Bender.

Experts urge travelers to plan ahead

As the holiday season draws near, travel plans and reservations are now in effect as people get ready to visit their families across state lines.

With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away and Christmas just over a month away, airfare, train services, and car rentals are all things that need to be looked into for those planning to hit the road.

According to the 2019 Annual Airfare Study done by CheapAir.com, the prime booking window is about four months to three weeks in advance of travel dates.

“The best time to book is as soon as possible, The longer a person waits the more trouble they end up having,” said Sandy Hunley, general manager at Kish Travel.

The best thing a person should purchase during the chaotic holiday travel season is travel insurance. Travel insurance allows a person to have a backup plan that could save them hundreds of dollars in the long run when something goes wrong.

Many travel agents advise people to purchase travel insurance, even if they’re planning a trip on their own.

“We recommend trip insurance for everything. It covers for those unplanned incidents like health emergencies, losing a luggage or getting in an accident right before your flight,” said Hunley. “There are so many things that could happen when you decide to travel, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Jordan Frederick can be reached at jfrederick@huntingdondailynews.com

Write-in vote info available

Huntingdon County election officials posted what are unofficial results of the hand count for write-in votes in the Nov. 5 election.

Mount Union Borough

Mount Union Borough, though some candidates were conducting write-in campaigns, the Nov. 5 election yielded only one definitive answer from Mount Union residents casting ballots in borough council races. With just one candidate printed on the ballot.

For the First Ward, Patrick Reeder received 46 write-in votes, compared to the 27 scattered votes.

Reeder, who is employed as a corrections officer at SCI Smithfield, told The Daily News before the Nov. 5 election his campaign hit a snag Nov. 1 when he received word that the state, which previously OK’d his bid for the borough seat, had rescinded its approval.

Dan Egan, spokesperson with the state Office of Administration, said state employees must have approval from the state if they want to run for public office so that the state may determine whether or not the elected office presents any potential for conflict with the individual’s employment.

Reeder moved forward with his write-in campaign and said he intended to appeal the state’s decision.

In the Second Ward, incumbent Michael Shields and challenger Thad Fortney sought write-in votes, and Shields received 76 write-in votes, and there were 10 more write-in votes that are listed as scattered.

Reeder said Fortney, who ran in tandem with Reeder on the same platform, is also a state corrections officer and, with his own candidacy up in the air, he’s not sure if Fortney can except a similar decision from the state.

Walker Township

It appears as if Walker Township resident Matthew Johnson, who was conducting a write-in campaign for supervisor as a Republican, received more votes than incumbent Rodney Johns and Democratic challenger Michael Keller.

According to election information, Johnson received 299 write-in votes, while 10 write-in votes were scattered. Incumbent Republican Rodney Johns received 177 votes, while Democratic challenger Michael Keller received 116 votes.

Southern Huntingdon County School District

In addition to some municipalities, there were also some races for seats on school board that were up in the air, due to write-in campaigns, including the Southern Huntingdon County School District.

In the eastern region of the district, Todd Grist, who was running a write-in campaign for one of two seats in that region, received a total of 182 votes to win the write-in count for that region. Additionally, there were also 221 write-in votes that were listed as scattered.

In the western region, Tammy Park received 108 votes to be the winner of one of two open seats in that region. The rest of the write-in votes in that region totaled 183 and were listed as scattered.

Huntingdon Area

School District

Denise Felton, who was conducting a write-in campaign for Region 3 for the district, received 213 write-in votes, which is enough to be considered for one of two open seats. There were also 43 scattered write-in votes for Region 3.

All results are considered unofficial, and all those winners must accept their win and fill out paperwork before they can officially take their spots. Also, all results posted by the Huntingdon County Elections Board remain unofficial until certified by the state Department of State.

For a full list of all write-in winners, visit the county’s website at www.huntingdoncounty.net, click on departments, then click on elections.

Invasive species could affect lake

Similar to invasive insects like lanternflies, stink bugs and Asian lady beetles, invasive aquatic life persists as a point of concern for local biological authorities.

At the end of October, a group of Penn State students from Behrend campus reported the discovery of an invasive shrimp species known as the “bloody red shrimp” (or Hemimysis anomala) in Lake Erie.

One local professor weighed in on the topic, informing Huntingdon County residents of the shrimp’s origins and potential effects.

Dr. Douglas Glazier, a professor of biology at Juniata College, has expertise in studying local “shrimp.”

“I have been carrying out local research on a freshwater shrimp (Gammarus minus) that inhabits local springs and streams,” Glazier said. “These ‘shrimp’ are crustaceans in the order Amphipoda.”

The bloody red shrimp are not part of this group, however. They belong to another order of crustaceans known as “mysid shrimp.”

“Neither amphipods or mysids are true shrimp, which are in the order Decapoda (including shrimp, prawns, crayfish, lobsters and crabs),” Glazier said.

Despite lacking expertise with the bloody red shrimp, Glazier was able to provide information regarding its origin.

“The native habitat of Hemimysis anomala is the Ponto-Caspian region of Eurasia,” Glazier said. “It originally lived only in the Black Sea, Azov Sea and Caspian Sea and connecting drainage systems. However, since the 1950s it has been spreading across Europe. In 2006 it was first discovered in the Great Lakes. Currently, it appears to be spreading throughout the Great Lakes. (Other) invasive species, including H. anomala, and other Ponto-Caspian animals (e.g., the zebra mussel) are often transported in the ballast water of ships.”

Glazier was quick to point out that the negative effects of the bloody red shrimp in Lake Erie are unknown. However, the bloody red shrimp is not the only invasive species to arrive in Lake Erie.

“It is not yet known what effect this species will have on the ecosystems of these lakes,” Glazier said. “The mysid shrimp H. anomala is just one more species, native to the Ponto-Caspian region, that has invaded the Great Lakes. Ricciardi & MacIsaac (2000) list 7 Ponto-Caspian animal species that invaded during 1986-1998. Ricciardi (2006) has estimated that a new invasive species arrives in the Great Lakes every 28 weeks on average.”

The effect these species may have on Lake Erie is well known.

“A major fear is that if these invasions occur for other species, they may cause a major ‘ecological shakedown’ in the Great Lakes,” Glazier said. “The Great Lakes ecosystems may become more like that of the Ponto-Caspian aquatic ecosystems. For example, the amphipod Echinogammarus ischnus is apparently replacing the native amphipod Gammarus fasciatus. If E. ischnus were to reach Raystown Lake, it may result in the demise of G. fasciatus there, as well.”

The bloody red shrimp, Glazier believes, could also affect Raystown Lake if it were to reach the area.

“Currently the presence of the bloody red shrimp in Lake Erie should have little or no direct effect on Huntingdon County,” Glazier said. “However, if it invaded Raystown Lake it may have an effect on that ecosystem.”

The effects, however, have the potential to be negative or positive.

“Mysid shrimp, such as the bloody red shrimp, feed heavily on microscopic open water animals called zooplankton, which provide food for many small young fishes in Raystown Lake,” Glazier said. “If the bloody red shrimp became established in Raystown Lake, it is possible that it could negatively affect fish populations that depend on zooplankton. On the other hand, it could also provide a new source of food for some fishes, which would be a positive effect.”

An academic article supplied by Glazier noted several more potential effects found during investigations of already-introduced mysids.

These effects include “severe declines and compositional shifts of microzooplankton communities, reduced abundances and growth rates of pelagic fishes and altered nutrient and contaminant cycling.”

Joshua can be reached at jblattenberger@huntingdondailynews.com.