McMicken College of Arts & SciencesMcMicken College of Arts & SciencesUniversity of Cincinnati

McMicken College of Arts & Sciences

Department of Geology

Department of Geology

UC Groundwater Research of Ohio

What is GRO?


GRO is a University of Cincinnati research study focusing on studying the potential effects of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on groundwater in the Utica Shale of Ohio. Our team of researchers, led by Amy Townsend-Small, Ph.D., from the Department of Geology at UC, specifically test for the presence of methane, the primary component of natural gas, and its sources in drinking water wells. The project began in 2012 as a response to intensifying shale gas development and fracking in eastern Ohio. As drilling for unconventional natural gas wells rapidly increases in many regions of the United States, there has been a major concern of natural gas contamination into shallow groundwater resources. Previous studies in Pennsylvania have indicated that fracking can lead to high levels of methane in groundwater; however, these studies only studied methane and its sources after the onset of fracking. Our project aims to study methane levels and origins in groundwater before, during, and after the onset of fracking. Our study area is concentrated in Carroll County, Ohio, which is home to the most unconventional natural gas wells in the state. As fracking has expanded into other counties of eastern Ohio, our project has also expanded into Columbiana, Belmont, Harrison, and Stark counties.

How does GRO work? Three to four times a year, our Cincinnati research team travels to eastern Ohio to perform water sampling field work. Water is sampled from private drinking water wells of volunteer participant’s homes, farms, or other properties. Our team first reached out to potential volunteers by working with Carroll Concerned Citizens in Carrollton, Ohio. As our project expanded, we published press releases in local news outlets of eastern Ohio calling for interested participants. When our field work is complete, we perform testing and analysis at our lab at the University of Cincinnati. Data collection for the study began in 2012 and is ongoing as fracking continues in the Utica Shale.

Water Testing Results 2012-2015

Support GRO. We can’t do our work without your support! If you’d like to contribute to GRO, please donate.

Meet the research team:

Amy Townsend-Small, Ph.D.: Amy Townsend-Small is an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati Department of Geology and the founder, leader, and advisor for the GRO project. Her research expertise includes studying methane and its origins in varying environments. She leads research projects all around the United States, including studies in Alaska, Texas, and Lake Erie.

David Nash, Ph.D.: David Nash is a professor at the University of Cincinnati Department of Geology and a collaborator on the GRO project.

Paul Feezel: Paul is the leader of the community group Carroll Concerned Citizens in Carrollton, OH. He collaborates with GRO to inform community members and potential participants about fracking in Carroll County. 

Claire Botner: Claire is a graduate student working on the GRO project earning her Master’s in Geology at the University of Cincinnati. She received her B.S. from Georgetown College in Environmental Science and is interested in studying the impacts of energy exploration on water resources.

Casey White: Casey is an undergraduate at UC majoring in International Affairs with minors in Environmental Studies and Spanish. Her academic interests include sustainable development, environmental law, and human rights.

Zoë Doss: Zoë is a senior at UC majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in Biology. Her main research interest is water quality.

Additional Information

Contact Us:

If you would like to learn more about GRO or are interested in becoming a participant in the study, please contact us!

Amy Townsend-Small, Ph.D.
Phone: (513)556-3762