Thomas More College Biology Field Station studies health of Ohio River

Posted at 7:00 AM, Nov 27, 2016
and last updated 2017-03-10 09:48:43-05

March 10, 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the Thomas More College Biology Field Station. This story was originally published in Nov. 2016.

CALIFORNIA, Kentucky -- Once it helped keep shipping on the Ohio River moving. Now, it is a state-of-the-art environmental monitoring station.

The Thomas More College Biology Field Station in California, Kentucky, was formerly Lock 35 on the river. It was built in 1919. Next year, it is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

In 1967, the federal government accepted a grant proposal from the college, and the two shared the property for 30 years.

In 1997, the college received the property outright -- provided it used the facility for research.

Dr. Chris Lorentz, director of the Thomas More College Biology Field Station talks with students from a Mt. Notre Dame Academy zoology class. He explains how the important work at the station helps monitor the Ohio River by sampling its water and the wildlife that lives in and around it. Photo by Bruce Crippen | WCPO contributor

The college invested $1 million in state-of-the-art chemistry and wet laboratories, as well as other renovations.

The lab has formal collaborations with the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. The station is the Center for Ohio River Research and Education.

On a daily basis, faculty and students document the health of the river and its fish populations. It has been gathering river data since 1967.

The field station has come a long way since then, but those early years were critical in building a foundation of river data the lab still uses today.

These studies provide a “big picture” of the river’s ability to support life, provide a drinking water source and a place to safely fish, boat and swim.

Thomas More uses a fleet of research boats, and has a ¾-mile nature trail on the banks of the river.