Biology professor awarded $105,461 grant toward invasive fish research

Two women kneeling on rocks beside a river studying water samples.

Assistant Professor of Biology Megan Schall (left) studies a sample with a student along the Susquehanna River, in this photo taken summer 2019. Schall recently was awarded a $105,461 grant toward her research along the waterway.

Credit: Provided

HAZLETON, Pa. – A $105,461 grant has been awarded to Penn State Hazleton Assistant Professor of Biology Megan Schall toward her continued research on the potential ecological impact of an invasive fish species on the Susquehanna River Basin.

Pennsylvania Sea Grant provided the funds as part of a $1.4 million investment in critical research involving the state’s coastal and watershed resources. Grants were also awarded to researchers at University Park, Penn State Behrend, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and four other colleges and universities across the state.

“Penn State Hazleton has long been committed to providing our students with opportunities to learn from faculty who are experts in their field,” Penn State Hazleton Chancellor Gary Lawler said. “This grant is a testament to Megan’s abilities as a scientist and her commitment to important research that impacts our communities.”

Director of Academic Affairs Elizabeth Wright added, “In just a short time since joining our faculty, Megan has made a profound impact on our students and our campus, sharing her knowledge for science through classroom and laboratory instruction as well as hands-on undergraduate research. We have no doubt she will put this grant to use with the same passion and dedication."

Schall’s research focuses on Flathead Catfish, a predatory species that has expanded out of its native environment and into the Susquehanna River.

By studying the diet of the Flathead Catfish, Schall will aim to shed light on whether the species is harmful to native or migratory fish in the region, which could potentially impact the recreational fishing industry there, she explained.

“For the past year, I have been working out preliminary methodologies in my lab to use molecular techniques to identify partially digested fish consumed by other fish species,” Schall said. “The preliminary work and a smaller Commonwealth Collaboration Grant I received have been helping to solidify the methods for the larger project.”

Part of the two-year grant will also support a master’s student at University Park.

The graduate student, Sydney Stark, will help Schall collect Flathead Catfish diets and analyze the data at the molecular genetics lab Schall helped set up at the Hazleton campus.

“Mentoring the next generation is extremely important to me,” Schall said.

Since joining the Penn State Hazleton faculty in 2018, Schall has had students complete four independent studies with her on projects ranging from compilation of background data on acid mine drainage in impaired streams to using DNA technology to look for fish parasites in invertebrate hosts.

“I was fortunate to have great mentors who helped me throughout my academic career,” Schall said. “I was able to get experience early on as an undergrad and it made a large difference in shaping me as a scientist and helping direct my career goals.”

Schall holds a doctorate in ecology from Penn State, a master’s degree in wildlife and fisheries science from Penn State, and bachelor’s degrees in cellular and organismal biology and environmental and ecology biology from Lock Haven University.