Skip to main content

We’ve updated our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy. By using this site, you agree to these terms.

Unconventional Natural Gas Development

The EHI's most recent efforts involve the Marcellus shale. We are developing a number of research studies regarding the potential environmental impacts of unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) in the Marcellus shale, and how these may influence such health issues as asthma, cardiovascular disease and pregnancy outcomes.

Marcellus shale development can influence air, surface water and ground water quality, and we are developing studies to assess the potential health impacts of each of these sources and routes of exposure. We are also involved with Geisinger's larger efforts to launch a variety of Marcellus-related studies. We have obtained well and pipeline data from the state and are entering well completion report data into a geospatial database for use in future epidemiologic studies. We have obtained NIH funding to begin health studies.

The NIH study, Marcellus Shale Development, Respiratory and Reproductive Outcomes in Pennsylvania, will use well and infrastructure data to estimate exposures to all aspects of Marcellus shale development in Pennsylvania. These exposure estimates will then be used to evaluate whether asthma control and pregnancy outcomes are affected by Marcellus shale development by studying 30,000 asthma patients and 22,000 pregnancies in the Geisinger from 2006-13. For more information, see the abstract.

Grant Program

The Environmental Health Institute has developed a regional Marcellus Impact Pilot Program and made five awards totaling $100,000 to principal investigators from six different institutions that will provide research opportunities for nine students. Awards were made to Dr. Steven Rier (Bloomsburg University with United States Geological Survey partners), Dr. Lisa Bailey-Davis (Geisinger), Dr. Jonathan Niles (Susquehanna University) with Dr. Chris Grant (Juniata College), Dr. Melvin Zimmerman and Dr. Peter Petokas (Lycoming College), and Dr. Md. Khalequzzaman (Lock Haven University).

PI/s and Institution/s Project Title
Dr. Steven Rier, Bloomsburg University (with United States Geological Survey Partners) Developing biofilm markers for monitoring the impacts of unconventional oil and gas development on stream ecosystems
Dr. Baily-Davis, Geisinger Pennsylvania farmers' perception of agricultural impacts from unconventional natural gas development in the Marcellus shale
Dr. Jonathan Niles, Susquehanna University and Dr. Chris Grant, Juniata Colleg Assessing potential impacts of unconventional natural gas extractions and mercury concentrations on trophic foodwebs of unassessed headwater streams
Dr. Melvin Zimmerman and Dr. Peter Petokas, Lycoming College An assessment of eastern hellbender population trajectories and water quality as determinates of watershed health
Dr. Md. Khalequzzaman, Lock Haven University Determination of the sources of turbidity in waterways in the Marcellus shale gas drilling region


  • Poulsen MN, Bailey-Davis L, DeWalle J, Mowery J, Schwartz BS. Agricultural implications of unconventional natural gas development: divergent perceptions of sustainable and conventional farmers. Culture, Agriculture, Food, and Environment 2018, 40: 24-35.
  • Koehler K, Casey JA, Ellis HJ, Manthos D, Bandeen-Roche K, Platt R, Schwartz BS. Exposure assessment using secondary data sources in unconventional natural gas development and health studies. Environ Sci Technol 2018, 52(10), 6061-6069
  • Tustin AW, Hirsch AG, Rasmussen SG, Casey JA, Bandeen-Roche K, Schwartz BS. Associations between unconventional natural gas development and nasal and sinus, migraine headache, and fatigue symptoms in Pennsylvania. Environ Health Perspect 2017; 125: 189-97.
  • Rasmussen SG, Ogburn EL, McCormack M, Casey JA, Bandeen-Roche K, Mercer, DG, Schwartz BS. Association between unconventional natural gas development in the Marcellus shale and asthma exacerbations. JAMA Intern Med 2016; 176: 1334-43.
  • Casey JA, Savitz DA, Rasmussen SG, Ogburn EL, Pollak J, Mercer DG, Schwartz BS. Unconventional Natural Gas Development and Birth Outcomes in Pennsylvania, USA. Epidemiology 2016; 27: 163-72.
  • Casey JA, Ogburn EL, Rasmussen SG, Irving JK, Pollak J, Locke PA, Schwartz BS. Predictors of indoor radon concentrations in Pennsylvania, 1989-2013. Environ Health Perspect 2015; 123: 1130-7.
  • Graham J, Irving J, Tang X, Sellers S, Crisp J, Horwitz D, Muehlenbachs L, Krupnick A, Carey D. Increased traffic accident rates associated with shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania. Accident Analysis & Prevention 2015; 74: 203-309. 


  • Poulsen MN, DeWalle J, Mowery J, Bailey-Davis L. Pennsylvania farmers’ perceptions of agricultural impacts from Marcellus shale development. Joint Annual Meeting and Conference of the Association for the Study of Food and Society and the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society. 2016. Toronto, ON.