Marcellus Community Science

Background and History

Marcellus Matters: Engaging Adults in Science and Energy (EASE) was a Penn State project supported by a National Science Foundation STEM grant that spanned five years from 2012 through 2016.  The Community Science Volunteer Program (CSV), under this grant, provided ten weekly educational classes along with field experiences to adults living in rural Pennsylvania where a majority of natural gas exploration and development was occurring producing large-scale change within their communities.  The program curriculum focused on energy and energy systems, the scientific process, social and economic impacts, and communication skills to enhance citizens' abilities to engage in civil dialogue around contentious topics. The educational programming, however, was not an advocacy program for or against shale gas development.  Faculty and staff from four Penn State colleges collaborated to deliver the programming.  Participants in CSV were encouraged to put their science knowledge into practice through field work to locate orphan and abandoned wells in Pennsylvania.

Course Overview

You are about to embark upon a journey into the science behind large scale change through the lens of Marcellus Shale development based on the curriculum developed for CSV. Although this journey is a solo one, we begin with Rules of Engagement. Rules of engagement are necessary to create effective learning environments in educational settings, group discussions and civil dialogue. The course contains 11 self-directed lessons. Each lesson is designed to be completed within 2-5 hours. You will engage in the learning process not only through reading materials provided to you, but also through watching videos, completing exercises, and answering questions to check your understanding. We encourage you to share what you learn with others. This can reinforce learning and help to affirm your comprehension and ability to effectively communicate new information. Although we frame our educational lessons within the context of Marcellus Shale development, our goal is to help increase science literacy and hone critical thinking skills so that you can apply them to other important issues as well.

The 11 lessons in this program are:

  1. Process of Science
  2. Energy Choices for PA and the US
  3. Constructive Conversations
  4. Geology and Seismic Testing
  5. Shale Development Engineering
  6. Understanding Pipeline Regulation, Construction and Land Impacts
  7. Environmental Issues--Land Use Planning and Design
  8. Environmental Issues--Water Resources & Management
  9. Community Impacts
  10. Economic Impacts
  11. Using What You Have Learned/Opportunities

Quick Facts about Marcellus Community Science

  • Instructors:  There are no instructors for this course. However, if you have questions, or need further references you may contact Penn State hydrogeologist Dave Yoxtheimer, at the Earth & Environmental Systems Institute. His email address is
  • Course Structure:  The course consists of 11 self-directed educational modules, each designed to be completed in 3-5 hours.
  • Overview:  This course examines various aspects of science and energy development, geology, engineering, environmental issues, societal impacts of boom/bust cycles, and understanding the mechanisms of constructive conversation.