LightHawk flew with the William Penn Foundation alongside two major watershed organizations: The Rodale Institute and the Stroud Water Research Center. All of us are working towards better soil and stream health in the watershed

With leading support from the William Penn Foundation, and collaboration with the Rodale Institute, a global leader in regenerative organic agriculture, and the Stroud Center, which advances knowledge and stewardship of freshwater systems, we are working on a groundbreaking project aimed at improving soil health and water quality in the Delaware River watershed.

The project will draw on the time-tested talents of both organizations to establish best practices to reduce water pollution associated with agricultural runoff while improving productivity and profits. Agricultural runoff, or nutrients such as fertilizers and manure carried off a piece of farmland by rain, is an important factor in the health of the Delaware. According to the USDA National Resources Conservation Service, cultivated cropland and other agricultural lands make up 26% of this area, or 15,000 farms. The partnership will evaluate different types of agricultural management practices and their effect on improving soil health while mitigating agricultural runoff. Soil health in turn improves overall productivity of a farm, which leads to higher profits for the farmer. These new farming practices will be established at the Stroud Preserve in Chester County, Pennsylvania, where partners will collect data on characteristics like water infiltration, runoff, soil health, and stream water quality.

LightHawk is supporting this project by providing leaders from each of the organizations an opportunity to see the experimental farms at Rodale Institute as well as the four newly established field sites at the Stroud Preserve from the air. From that perspective, they were better able to see the paired watershed approach of the study, as well as observe how these plots fit into the larger landscape. In addition, LightHawk pilot Geoff Nye flew a hired photographer over these landscapes to gather photos to be featured in a video about the project. We hope to continue to support this exciting project as it develops over the next 6 years.

This flight was quite useful to me as it provided me with an opportunity to get a broader picture of what our work hopes to accomplish. By viewing the project sites and taking a bird’s eye view of the larger Delaware River Basin from the air plus other projects not related to ours, I felt better informed of the enormous responsibility we have over the next 6 or more years” – Emmanuel Omondi, Rodale Institute.

“[Seeing an] aerial view over the sampling sites that we are working on is a great experience. We will use the footage when we present project relevant work and will definitely acknowledge the great help from LightHawk” – JinJun Kan, Stroud Center

“Always good to get a broader view and perspective on agricultural field research to showcase how the research plots fit into the broader landscape” – Jeff Moyer, Rodale Institute

“We hoped for a general aerial view of several of our study sites and then a perspective of land use/land cover patterns across the Delaware River Watershed area. We took many photos that we hope to use to communicate about our study sites.” – David Arscott, Stroud Center

Key Outcomes

  • Deeper relationships across state lines
  • Baseline photography

Lead support is provided by the William Penn Foundation.

Photos by Cynthia Van Elk.