COOKEVILLE – Tennessee Tech University has been awarded a grant from Duke Energy’s Water Resources Fund to conduct research aimed at enhancing and protecting regional waterways.

The project, which will be conducted in partnership with The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and Department of Environmental Quality, Trout Unlimited, and Mainspring Conservation Trust with support from U.S. Forest Service, focuses on determining the current distribution and river conditions that support the invasive algae Didymo in North Carolina and Tennessee, as well as assessing the potential of Didymo colonization and blooms in the region’s rivers.

Didymo can produce thick mats that cover stream bottoms impacting the types of organisms that can live there and food availability for fishes. In the Southern Appalachians, Didymo often occurs in high-quality streams with strong trout fisheries.

Tech is one of 16 organizations across Tennessee and North and South Carolina to receive grant funds totaling more than $1.2 million from Duke Energy’s Water Resources Fund.

“This project will help fisheries and water resource managers predict which streams will be most susceptible to Didymo colonization and growth, and better define the conditions that lead to blooms in this region,” said Justin Murdock, Associate Professor of Biology and Director of the Center for the Management and Utilization and Protection of Water Resources at Tech. “This work will also allow a more focused management approach to better allocate resources to mitigate recreational and ecological impacts of this harmful alga.”

The grant will also support an education program designed to inform anglers, other recreational uses and youth groups about aquatic invasive species and potential ways they can spread throughout the region.

“Duke Energy is dedicated to protecting and restoring the rivers and waterways that power our regional economies,” said David Fountain, president of Duke Energy in North Carolina. “We look forward to our partnership with Tennessee Tech and the impact this project will have in the region.”

The Duke Energy Foundation provides philanthropic support to address the needs of communities where its customers live and work. The foundation contributes more than $33 million annually in charitable gifts and is part of Duke Energy, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Grant funds awarded for this project total $36,508.

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