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The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947


The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947


Gannon Advances Project NePTWNE as They Face Community Opposition

Project NePTWNEs logo and their partnership with Gannon University.
Project NePTWNE
Project NePTWNEs logo and their partnership with Gannon University.

March 8, 2024/ Midnight  


Erie Pa., — Gannon University has received an abundance of opposition from the Erie Community as Project NePTWNE’s Great Lakes Research and Education Center has been assigned an architect. 

Project NePTWNE (Nano & Polymer Technology for water and Neural-networks in Erie) is a six-phase environmental project that aims to address the aspects of water quality, climate change, and the quality of life surrounding the Great Lakes.  

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Through researching and measuring pollutants such as microplastics in the lake water, researchers can work toward developing solutions that reduce pollutant levels to make a safe water ecosystem.  

Phase 1 of the project was developing the Center for Manufacturing and Technology within Gannon’s Institute for Health and Cyber Knowledge (I-Hack). The manufacturing and technology center was opened in October of 2023 completing this phase.  

Phase 2 is the introduction of the Great Lakes Research and Education Center which Gannon plans to develop in Blasco Library.  

Phase 3 was initiated in December of 2023 with the breaking of ground for the NePTWNE project greenhouse.  

Phase 4 has Gannon on the hunt for a new vessel to augment the Environaut and expand the educational programming for Kindergarten through Undergraduate students.  

Phases 5 and 6 include a public health and policy program and a lake monitoring facility. 

Project NePTWNE phase 2 has caused an uproar for Gannon as the Erie Community expresses their anger as the 3,280 square feet of the Blasco Library will be dedicated to the new research facility. 

The space will be available for students and community members to follow along as Gannon researchers investigate the Great Lake Ecosystem. The Great Lakes Research and Education Center will include an exhibit space, a science on a sphere lecture space, and the research facility itself.  

On February 21, Gannon announced their partnership with Indovina Associates Architects of Pittsburgh. With the architect selected, protesters and petitioners have renewed their efforts in voicing their concerns with the location of Project NePTWNE.  

With more than 5,000 individuals having signed a petition against Gannon’s lease the public has expressed its disapproval of a public space being rented to a private institution. 

One way the public petitioned against the project is with signs and pickets. Many people have been standing outside of Beyer Hall expressing their disapproval of the project’s location.  

A common point that is mentioned by the Erie community is that they believe there was a lack of communication between the public, Erie County Council, and Gannon University.  

The resolution process to pass a lease starts with the Erie County Executive who negotiates the lease. The executive will then offer the agreement up to the council to discuss. Once the council discusses the potential for the lease a vote is taken shortly after. 

As was explained, this process has a quick turnaround. In Gannon’s case the lease was brought to the council on a Thursday and was voted into effect the following Tuesday. This left little opportunity for the public to be made aware and voice their concerns before the vote.  

Others voice concerns about how the space could be improved for the public in other ways. One such individual is former Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper who voiced her displeasure with the project being placed in the Blasco Library in an opinion piece for GoErie.  

Dahlkemper stated “I have heard arguments that the library use of space is changing and, somehow, allowing Gannon to occupy this large section of the library will benefit the library’s future…I believe that this could not be further from reality.” 

Dahlkemper argues that the space has been improved with new spaces such as the Idea Lab, the Media Lab, and the Teen Space. These improvements have developed a creative environment in Blasco where individuals from the community can “make their ideas a reality” she stated. 

While discussing these concerns with Gannon representatives it was explained that the exhibit space will have an interpretive display that informs guests about the Lake Erie ecosystem. These displays could include fish tanks, plaques with information about active research and more.  

The Science on a Sphere portion of the project will hold a $150,000-250,000 device on which researchers/lecturers can show and describe different climates, ecosystems, and display a full image of the Earth.  

The other portion of the center will house the lab for Gannon Faculty and staff to perform studies on Lake Erie. This year Gannon is looking at perch migrations. The facility will open more opportunities for students and faculty to explore new more extensive research points.  

This part of the space will be surrounded by glass windows allowing on lookers to observe the research going on. Gannon hopes that the facility will also be used as an educational tool for the public as researchers can welcome people into the lab to explain the current study.  

It is relevant to note that the space in the library Gannon plans to occupy is space the library considers, “flexible.”  For instance, the current downstairs location of the computer lab was originally located on the second floor. Some of those computers were relocated temporarily to the first floor for COVID social distancing and can now relocate back to the original area on the second floor. Patrons will not lose computer access due to Gannon’s presence.  

As Dr. Sarah Ewing, Gannon’s Provost, discussed in an interview with local news, the public will be able to provide feedback on the plans for space and they will move forward with the inclusion of the public’s feedback.  

Many locals who have reached out to The Gannon Knight have explained that the environmental benefits of Project NePTWNE are not the issue, rather just the location of the project.  

One individual, who is a part of Project Minerva, stated in an interview that the space Gannon hopes to use is frequently used by the public.  

She said, “Project Minerva isn’t opposed to the project…one individual who has spoken to council is a water tester…these people want the project to happen just not in the location that was selected.” 

Community individuals are outraged by the public space being occupied and the cost of Gannon’s lease. With the grant bestowed on Gannon for this project funds will be returning to the Erie Community. 

In response, the university stated that the programs provided will be free to the public and that this research facility will not be a business but rather an investment in the well-being of the environment.  

As it stands Gannon will move forward with the project and work closely with the Erie Community and Indovina Associate Architects of Pittsburgh. 

For further information or questions contact Haley Figurski – Media, Marketing, and Sales Manager at Gannon – at [email protected]. 


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About the Contributor
Jillian Wells
Jillian Wells, News Editor
Hello, this year's News editor for the 2023 academic school year is Jillian Wells. She has written for the Gannon Knight as a staff writer periodically for the last two years and is looking forward to adding a third as an editor. She is also a co-editor for Gannon’s Literary Art Magazine the Totem, and a member of the English Honors Society Sigma Tau Delta. She is an easy-going person and tends to open up the more you get to know her. A good book and a cup of tea (or coffee) are all she needs for a free afternoon, and she is most definitely a dog (and cat) person. Jillian says that The Knight is a way for students and faculty to stay connected to the happenings around campus and to be a part of that is a great privilege. She hopes to do the best by you all.

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