The citizen science association Delta Environment is in the process of establishing a new endowment at the Rochester Institute of Technology to create an environmental education program at RIT’s Tait reserve.
Through the Wayne Harris Delta Environmental Education Endowment Fund, RIT will continue Delta’s mission by incorporating environmental programs and programs, as well as forging new relationships with community partners in addition to maintaining the partnerships established by Delta.
For nearly 50 years, Delta Environmental has promoted environmental awareness and provided environmental education focused on water quality within the local community. Founded by Wayne Harris in 1971 as Delta Laboratories, Delta has grown from a renowned environmental research and activism organization to the Adopt-A-Stream program and providers of water quality education services that have supported water quality education in the greater Rochester area for decades.
“My father saw fish dying in Lake Ontario in 1952 and wanted to know why,” said Karen Kessler, president of Delta Environmental. “He brought together a group of like-minded people to use scientific evidence of the source and extent of pollution to lobby for laws to be changed to better protect our environment. Wayne believed the future hinged on educating the next generation while inspiring them to take action to protect our precious natural resources. This group of dedicated people formed Delta Laboratories Inc. to continue and expand this mission.
In the 1980s, the organization developed a coordinated STEM K-12 program, Kessler said, adding that the program was ahead of its time. Now the Adopt-A-Stream program can continue to inspire and educate through RIT and Tait Preserve.
RIT acquired the Tait Reserve from RIT and Leenhouts Lodge in 2019 for the purpose of using the sprawling 177-acre estate, which includes a 60-acre lake and a private mile of Irondequoit Creek adjacent to Ellison Park, for research, l education and awareness. Sophia Maggelakis, Dean of the College of Science, is excited about the prospect of adapting the Adopt-A-Stream curriculum to the new framework in order to expand RIT’s K-12 educational programming.
“This endowment provides exciting new opportunities for collaboration with the Rochester City School District,” said Maggelakis. “Many existing water quality education programs require students to travel long distances. Having both the funding to do the programming and a space close to town is amazing, and we thank Delta Environmental for this great gift.
Now that the $ 200,000 endowment has been established, Delta’s board of directors is winding up Delta Environmental in 2021. RIT will continue to work on existing grants obtained by Delta Environmental and hope to build on the extensive network. community partners that Delta has established over the years. RIT faculty are already working on ways to harness the existing water quality education program to help educate the public on important results of their research.
“An opportunity that I am excited to pursue right away will synergize with our grant to study plastic pollution in local waterways,” said Christy Tyler, aquatic ecologist and associate professor at the Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences from RIT. “Partnering with this new fund to develop plastic pollution awareness and education material will be a tremendous asset. “
RIT hopes to begin providing educational opportunities for the Tait Reserve through the new endowment as soon as the coronavirus pandemic is under control. For more information on Delta Environmental, visit Adopt-a-Stream Website.
The Tait Family Gift is part of Transforming RIT: The Campaign for Greatness, which is RIT’s billion-dollar fundraising effort, the largest in college history. This blended campaign seeks support from a variety of investors, including alumni and friends, government and business partners, as well as foundations and research agencies. The campaign has raised $ 754 million to date.