Chas. Gowan, Ph.D.
Randolph-Macon professor Chas. Gowan, Ph.D. (environmental
studies program) was awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Fish and
Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). The grant, which will be matched with an additional
$100,000 by the Town of Ashland, will be used to support the restoration of Mechumps
Creek in Ashland, Virginia.
The announcement of the 2009 Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants was made on Monday,
September 14 at the Heritage Baptist Church in Annapolis, Maryland. Senator Benjamin
Cardin and officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration, the United States Forest Service and the National
Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced this year’s grants to the public and media.
“I join the R-MC community in congratulating Dr. Gowan on this prestigious grant,”
said Randolph-Macon College President Robert R. Lindgren. “Dr. Gowan’s development
and implementation of a watershed management plan has made a positive impact on
the environment. With this grant, and with the continued support of Dr. Gowan’s
colleagues and the community, he can continue his important work.”
Gowan is thrilled to have received the grant. “The NFWF has been a consistent supporter
of R-MC’s efforts to restore and protect our local watershed, allowing us to both
help the environment and to train students in state-of-the-art environmental techniques,”
Gowan began the restoration project in 2006, in conjunction with the First-Year
Experience (FYE) course, “Repairing Nature,” which he taught with Professor Reber
Dunkel, Ph.D. The course focused on identifying the effects of development on stream
ecosystems and the options for reversing damage. Students discovered that an overabundance
of water—as well as pollution—was eroding the soil on the banks of Mechumps. Rainwater
was being carried too quickly from storm drains to the creek, causing soil erosion
and threatening wildlife.
A key element of “Repairing Nature” centered on understanding the community’s social
organization, evaluating changes in land use over time and assessing various stakeholders’
opinions about the stream. As a culminating class project, students presented their
plans for restoring the stream to the Town of Ashland’s government and any interested
The Town, eager to support this project with Randolph-Macon College, deemed the
project feasible and offered to finance part of it. The Williamsburg Environmental
Group (WEG) was hired to provide a preliminary design for the rehabilitation of
the creek, and in January 2008 Gowan received word that the Town had awarded R-MC
$30,000 in grant money, which helped finance the initial phase of the restoration
Gowan joined the faculty at Randolph-Macon College in 1996. He earned his B.S. from
the State University of New York, his M.S. from Michigan State University and his
Ph.D. from Colorado State University. In 2008, Gowan was awarded the Paul H. Wornom,
M.D., Professorship in Biological Sciences. He is the director of the College’s
First-Year Experience program and serves on the Committee on Admissions, Credits,
and Academic Status of Students.