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Students Shine–Future for Leaders is Bright

May 15, 2013Patrick NunnallyFormer Featured PostsComments Off on Students Shine–Future for Leaders is Bright

You’ve heard it here before, but it bears repeating:  our students are some of the greatest “products” of our University.  Every year at this time we send a new group out to save the world (and man, sometimes it sure seems to need saving!) and mix our sadness at seeing them go with excitement for their new beginnings.

This year, three individuals and one group merit special attention.

Rachel Hines is an Honors graduate in Anthropology, specializing in archaeology.  Her senior thesis focused on the archaeological potential at Bohemian Flats, a small plot of river bottom land near the University campus.  Rachel’s project assessed the likelihood of arcaheological sites being found in the park and wrote up a model lesson plan that could be offered to middle school students.

What made her work truly remarkable, though, was the fact that she actually did very substantial research in census records and newspaper archives, as well as historical maps, to identify who lived where in the small riverside community on the flats between 1880-1930.  I’ve worked around this subject for better than 15 years, and have never seen a historian, professional or amateur, actually take the time to look the households on the flats.  A real contribution to knowledge, Rachel!

Abbie Hanson is another senior Honors student who has made a significant contribution to river resource management along the Mississippi in the Twin Cities.  Abbie, a Biology major, undertook a 2 part project.  As an internship for the National Park Service, she conducted a survey of strategies to remove invasive vegetation in local park systems throughout the Twin Cities Mississippi River corridor.  This work, which Park Service staff can map for further analysis, was received with great enthusiasm, “We can really use this to help local partners be more efficient,” reported a resource management specialist.

The second part of Abbie’s study was her actual thesis, conducted under the direction of Professor Rebecca Montgomery in the University’s Forestry Department.  The thesis tested hypotheses about the distribution of invasive woody vegetation along urban-suburban-rural gradients in the metropolitan area, reaching conclusions that may help land managers target efforts to control invasives before they are fully established.

Our third student, Erin Aadalen, is actually a member of the National Park Service staff in addition to being a senior specializing in Environmental Education and Communication.  In between her park duties and school work, Erin served as vice president of the University’s River Rangers student group, helping manage a year of unprecedented growth in membership and programming.  Her park service boss, Dan Dressler, reports that ” Erin’s enthusiasm for sharing nature with both children and peers is infectious.”

After graduation, Erin heads west to take a position as a park ranger at the Grand Canyon National Park, a really coveted posting within the service.

Finally, a group of graduate students in Landscape Architecture has achieved an unparalleled success in their field.  As this blog post from the College of Design describes, the student studio led by Matthew Tucker and Craig Wilson has been awarded the 2013 Professional Award of Excellence in the category “Unbuilt Works” from the Minnesota chapter of the American Society for Landscape Architecture.  Yes, this is the top award, in competition with both professional and student entrants.

The studio’s work on the Duwamish River, in Seattle WA explored potential futures for the heavily industrial, degraded river valley that is nevertheless undergring rapid transformations.  More on the studio’s work can be found here.

Work like that of the Duwamish studio exemplifies some of the greatest contributions our students can make to practices of river management and restoration.  We ask our students to be visionary, imagining the future as it might be with some specific roadblocks removed, rather than fanciful, dreaming up “anything goes” for our future landscapes.  These visions of what’s possible are what drive our practices forward.

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