River research Seminar

 Photo Credit: Pete DeCarlo 

Photo Credit: Pete DeCarlo 

About the seminar

The Schuylkill River and Urban Waters Research Seminar is a public, cooperative research seminar organized by Peter DeCarlo (Drexel), Danielle Redden (Bartram's Garden), and Bethany Wiggin (Penn). Some seminar meetings take place on campus--select Fridays at noon with a free lunch; others convene on the water. Check the events pages on this site for all meeting information. The Seminar is at present building a web archive for its members' varied work: contributing and collecting oral histories, measuring air quality, and an array of citizen science and public humanities projects that discover and document the tidal river's past and present--and together imagine its future. Special thanks to the Fels Policy Research Initiative, Penn Sustainability, Drexel's ExCITe Center, Bartram's Garden, and John Heinz National Wildife Refuge for support. 

Follow the seminar's work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @schuylkillcorps

Join our mailing list by sending a message to director@ppehlab.org

spring 2018 meeting schedule

2/2/2018 (Friday), 12-1:30pm in Williams Hall 623, University of Pennsylvania

-Coryn Wolk: Environmental Researcher/Writer, EDGE Philly and Physicians for Social Responsibility Philadelphia

Legal Trespass: Exploring the PES Refinery from the Lower Schuylkill River

-Paul Farber,PhD: Managing Director, Penn Program in Environmental Humanities

"'As Long as the Creeks and Rivers Flow'": Monument Lab, Historical Memory, and Civic Landscapes in Philadelphia

-Joanne Douglas: Schuylkill River & Urban Waters Research Corps Coordinator, Environmental Educator Glen Foerd on the Delaware, Project Director Bartram's Garden High School River Internship. 

Schuylkill Corps: Tools for Outreach, Collaboration and Power Shifting in Environmental Humanities


2/23/2018 (Friday), 12-1:30pm in Williams Hall 623, University of Pennsylvania

-Sharece Blakney: Graduate Student in the History MA program at Rutgers University-Camden

Equally Free With Myself: Slavery, Manumission, and Indentured Servitude in Kingsessing Township, 1780-1850

-Starr Herr-Cardillo: Historic Preservationist/Writer

Bridging the Schuylkill: Cultivating collaboration through shared history


3/16/2018 (Friday), 12-1:30pm in Williams Hall 623, University of Pennsylvania

-Meg Lemieur: Artist, Environmental Advocate, associated with E.D.G.E.

-Bri Barton: Illustrator, Garden Educator, associated with Soil Generation

Water Ways is a collaboratively-drawn series of highly detailed pen and ink illustrations telling the story of water and the effects that the natural gas industry has on Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the surrounding area. Each illustration consists of dozens of small vignettes that highlight people's struggles with companies and our own government as they strive to protect the water and land on which we all survive. 


4/13/2018 (Friday), 12-1:30pm in Williams Hall 623, University of Pennsylvania

-Sophia Poe, Artist, Family & Community Advocate, Woodland Academy

-Marie Alarcon: MultiMedia Artist, 2017 SouthWest Roots Artist in Residence

-Althea Baird, Interdisciplinary Artist, 2017 SouthWest Roots Artist in Residence

In 2017, SouthWest Roots Artist Catalyst Resident Artists Marie Alarcon, Althea Baird, Ash Richards, Darlene Devore and Jennifer Turnbull, developed a multidisciplinary project at Bartram’s Gardens with the help of Community Liaison Sophia Poe. The culminating event was a multichannel video installation showcasing Bartram's Garden’s
neighbors and friends as they perform everyday acts of art and movement, highlighting the creative power that has long existed in communities, with a focus on the intimate and personal relationships between place and the communities that interact within it, outside of the involvement of institutions.


4/27/2018 (Friday), 12-1:30pm in Williams Hall 623, University of Pennsylvania

-John Brady: President and CEO, Independence Seaport Museum

"Local and Historical Boats of the Delaware River and Bay" 

Fall 2017 Meeting Schedule

9/8/2017 (Friday), 12-1:30p in Meyerson Conference Center, Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania

-Elizabeth Milroy (Drexel)

-Kate Farquhar (WetLand)


9/22/2017 (Friday), 12-1:30p in Weigle 402, Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania

-Charles Haas (Drexel)

-David Barnes (Penn)


10/13/2017 (Friday), 12-1:30p in Meyerson Conference Center, Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania

-Eve Mosher (Artist)

-Jody Roberts (Chemical Heritage Foundation)


10/23-10/26/2017, Join the River Research Seminar at the Anthropocene Campus Philadelphia for a field visit and to get Flash messages about a slow disaster


10/27/2017 (Friday), 12-1:30p in Meyerson Conference Center, Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania

-Adam Levine (Philadelphia Water Department)


11/10/2017 (Friday), 12-1:30p in Meyerson Conference Center, Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania

-Roderick Coover (Temple)

-Dylan Gauthier (Mare Liberum)

–Kendra Sullivan (Center for the Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center)


12/1/2017 (Friday), 12-1:30p in Meyerson Conference Center, Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania

-Danielle Kreeger (Science Director, Partnership for the Delaware Estuary) 

-Lamar Gore (Manager, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge)


river research logo.png

seminar History

In the inaugural year of the Schuylkill River and Urban Waters Research Seminar, our activities included:

  • Hosting bi-weekly seminars, with 12 speakers from fields ranging from environmental chemistry to history and including faculty, graduate and undergraduate academic researchers as well as representatives from several community partners, including Bartram’s Garden, Andropogon et al

  • Building the bones for our co-created River Archive that we're fleshing out in 2017-18

  • Creating the Date/um mobile installation that draws from the Archive and thus far highlights work of the Seminar. Date/um has been shown three times: for a week in October  in Van Pelt Library (in conjunction with the related conference by the Program in Environmental Humanities, Timescales), for a month in January-February at the Annenberg Center (in conjunction with Data Refuge events), as well as in March at WHYY studios. A smaller version of the physical installation is online

  • Building a smartphone tour app using geolocation to be released for free download in the coming months for self-guided tours of the Lower Schuylkill on foot, bike, or boat

  • Lecturing publicly in Philadelphia and at national conferences about the Seminar and publishing a feature article in Open Rivers

  • Hosting a 1.5 day symposium (upcoming on May 11-12), featuring a keynote on the international interdisciplinary “Rivers of the Anthropocene” project. The symposium explores the various kinds of data produced and used by researchers across watersheds, including the Schuylkill, Delaware, Lehigh, Susquehanna, White and Ohio River valleys. Participants hail from academic institutions (Penn, Drexel/ANS, Penn State, IUPUI) and advocacy groups (Fractracker and the Lehigh Valley Watershed Coalition). Participants plan to scope a Research Coordination Network and co-author a RCN NSF-grant

  • Partnering with members on a successful grant applications for a Pew Foundation Project Grant for contemporary art on water at the Independence Seaport Museum 

  • Receiving a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Federation to develop an integrated arts and sciences curriculum for youth on Philadelphia's urban waterways


Spring 2017 meeting Schedule

2/3/2017 (Friday), 12-1:30p in Hill Conference Room, Room 240, LeBow Engineering Center, Drexel University.  , 

-David Velinsky (Academy of Natural Sciences / Drexel University )

-Chris Streb (Biohabitats)


2/17/2017 (Friday), 12-1:30p in the Meyerson Conference Room, 2nd Floor, Van Pelt Library, Penn

-Howard Neukrug (Penn; formerly Philadelphia Water)

-Lauren Mandel (PLA, ASLA; Andropogon)


3/3/2017 (Friday), 12-1:30p in the Meyerson Conference Room, 2nd Floor, Van Pelt Library, Penn

-Joel Fry (Bartram's Garden)

-Bethany Wiggin (Penn)


3/17/2017 (Friday), 12-1:30p in the Meyerson Conference Room, 2nd Floor, Van Pelt Library, Penn

-Peter DeCarlo (Drexel)


3/31/2017 (Friday), 12-1:30p Location TBA

-Marilyn Howarth (Penn)


4/13-4/15/2017 (Thursday-Saturday), Join us for a three-day conference and festival to imagine and build An Ecotopian Toolkit. Full event program available here


4/28/2017 (Friday), 12-1:30p in the Meyerson Conference Room, 2nd Floor, Van Pelt Library, Penn


5/11-5/12/2017 (Thursday-Friday), River Data Across Watersheds and Disciplines: A symposium on watershed health, stewardship, citizen science, and public humanities.

Keynote | 12–1:30p | Meyerson Conference Room, 2nd Floor, Van Pelt Library, Penn
Jason M. Kelly (IUPUI), "Anthropocene Methodologies"


Seminar research materials will be housed in the open river research archive. It is designed so that it can generate virtual tours--including items such as maps, environmental data, ethnographic interviews, photographs and other visual documents as well as narrative data, etc.--as well as feed a mobile app for self-guided tours on and along the river via your smart phone.

These platforms are also meant to promote the development of a learning curriculum on urban waters, environmental education, history, and ecology for community groups on Philadelphia’s urban waters.

The seminar meetings will further #LSRCorps initiatives to build digital tools that enable people to experience the historical and contemporary richness of the lower, tidal Schuylkill River. They are designed to be used and adapted by individuals and organizations who are on the river--whether for recreation, education, work, or stewardship.

Seminar members present current individual and/or collaborative research, discuss the ease or difficulty of integrating that research into the collaborative archive, and indicate how the research may be useful and of interest to community partners.

Funding for this seminar is used to pay local presenters an honorarium, to provide refreshments, to convene a two-day symposium on River Research with a keynote speaker on international urban waters, and to foster seminar participation in Bartram Garden’s River Fest 2017.   

Seminar Origins

In collaboration with artist Mary Mattingly and collaborators at Bartram’s Garden, Wiggin holds a Whiting Public Engagement Fellowship from January to June 2017 in support of a multi-disciplinary project called Floating on Warmer Waters. It explores the complex relationship of people and nature on the Lower Schuylkill River, home to both refineries and bird sanctuaries. In conjunction with the WetLand Project (2015-), co-organized by Redden and Wiggin with project founder Mattingly, two visioning meetings “to build wetland” were held at Bartram’s Garden, in December 2015 and April 2016. Participants included faculty from universities and colleges in the watershed, representatives from Philadelphia Water, Parks and Recreation, the National Parks Service, Fish and Wildlife, and others. From these meetings, a core group of river research collaborators emerged (listed below). The idea to develop a tour app emerged from these meetings and DeCarlo led a successful proposal to the Drexel ExCITe Center to obtain seed funding for the development of a collaborative audio based smartphone tour of the Lower Schuylkill River to use while walking, biking, or boating that integrates the history, ecology, community, and measured environmental parameters.

In conjunction with the PPEH conference on ecological Timescales in October 2016, PPEH Coordinator Patricia Kim, Ph.D. Candidate in History of Art, curated Date/um, a week-long show installed in Penn Libraries. Date/um documents the core group’s current research on the multiple timescales and historical frames (dates, datum and data) needed to understand the river. The show will move to Bartram’s Garden and other sites in late 2016 and into 2017; digital publication is currently in preparation.

The research seminar builds upon this present core to include more researchers with the twin aims of 1) promoting and connecting regional Schuylkill River and urban waters research across communities and ways of knowing; and 2) expanding a collaborative archive for present and future river research designed too to be used by community partners in need of curriculum to support existing water-based programs and new initiatives.

New members are always welcome. To join, please contact: director@ppehlab.org. We also have a google group