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.
Every year, American Rivers puts out its “Most Endangered Rivers” list, an event that serves to rally the river advocacy community around a few top threats around the country. Every year, the list, found here, highlights small formerly-obscure rivers as well as a few of the “headliners,” such as the Colorado or the Mississippi. While the threats are disheartening, the range of efforts being made to address those threats is always instructive.
One thing that stood out on this year’s list is the number of rivers that are listed because of “outdated water management” that pays insufficient to the range of goods and services that our rivers provide. It seems to me that a systematic study of those water management plans, and how they might be improved, combined with examples of really good water management plans, would be a great study, highly valuable to all of us engaged in this work of planning toward sustainable, multi-functional rivers.
Another interesting question: how has the Most Endangered list changed over time and what do those changes tell us? If the earlier threats aren’t showing up as rationales for inclusion, does that mean the “state of the rivers” is improving, at least in terms of response to some types of threat?
Anyone know of such a study, or one approximating it? Maybe we’ll have to start one up here–got a lot of students looking for good projects!
The Great River Gathering, St. Paul’s annual “town dinner” celebrating its connection to the Mississippi River, is coming up quickly,on May 9.
Here are some reasons why this 19th version of the dinner promises to be a “can’t miss” gathering:
- In addition to being sold out, the RiverWork Exhibit gallery features more than 50 organizations working to make Saint Paul great. Each of their displays tells a piece of the story of where our city is headed. If this doesn’t inspire you, nothing will.
- Following dinner, the program opens with our anthem, Flow River Flow, this year performed by the Real Phonic Band and song in three languages. With this musical support, we present a video of the development highlights of 2012. There is so much to celebrate from the past year.
- This year’s keynote speaker is Katherine Loflin, who will have been with us for the entire week for the 2nd Annual Placemaking Residency. Loflin is renowned for her work surrounding resident attachment to their cities, why it matters, and what we can do about it.
- The 25-30 semifinalists of the $1 million Minnesota Idea Open will be introduced. Was yours among the 946 ideas submitted? Perhaps you will be one of the finalists!
- The evening is capped off with the inspiring words of Mayor Chris Coleman, as he paints the picture for Saint Paul’s future.
Like many other river cities and towns, St. Paul “gets it”: a healthy river is vital to the future of a healthy community, and, just as important, a healthy community is vital to a healthy river.
The Great River Gathering is organized and hosted by the St. Paul Riverfront Corporation, which has been in the middle of everything “river-ish” that the city has done for the past 15+ years. Go to the Riverfront Corporation’s web site to learn more and to register for the Great River Gathering.
Hope to see you there!
Sometimes the most apparently simple acts carry the most profound possibilities for meaning. Last March 1, a group of indigenous women left Lake Itasca State Park, the headwaters of the Mississippi River in northern Minnesota, on a walk that will take them to the Gulf of Mexico. They are carrying a pail of water from the headwaters to the mouth of the Mississippi in the Gulf.
Sharon Day is a leader of the effort. “We want the walk to be a prayer,” Day says. “Every step we take we will be praying for and thinking of the water. The water has given us life and now, we will support the water.”
To learn more, and to support the group, go to their Facebook page. That page also links to a site which tracks the walk’s progress. Today, they are in northern Mississippi, 50 miles or so south of Memphis.
In February, we convened an afternoon of presentations by University of Minnesota faculty to hear about work being done on the Mississippi River, and to foster a discussion of next steps.
In this video, you can hear from Carissa Schively-Slotterback, Associate Professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, as she talks about her work as the Director of the Urban and Regional Planning Program, and as the founder and faculty director of the Resilient Communities Project.
An article by Doug Smith in Sunday’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune discusses the increasing complexity of some of the problems that concern the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. It’s not enough any more just to try to figure out of to provide enough walleyes for all the fishermen in the state. Instead, land use change and habitat loss, overuse of water resources (see Josephine Marcotty’s fine article sounding the alarm on diminished water in the state), pending climate change, all are issues that require new, more complex thinking and awareness of the state’s interconnected resource systems. Read more →
I would offer a qualified “yes” to this question. It’s not that our current thinking is old, or lacking, just that the challenges the river will face in the coming decades are going to require imagination and knowledge that hasn’t yet emerged. We will need 21st century ideas, in whatever form they emerge, for 21st century conditions.
Which brings me back to one of my favorite topics: the work of the next generation of river leaders, who are in high school and college now. You may have read some of the guest student voice posts that we have released over the past week or so. If not, I encourage you to go back and take a look; you won’t be disappointed. Read more →
Those of us fortunate enough to spend time teaching realize that our students–the river leaders who will follow us–have a lot of talent. They’re learning their way around the issues, and haven’t fully found their voice and their role yet, but the students I’m lucky enough to work with are passionate about making change in the world and committed both to learning what needs to happen and trying to make those changes. Learning AND doing, that “both/and” thing I find myself thinking about so much. Read more →
Wallace Stevens’s modernist classic “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” expressed in poetic form the concept that “reality” can be perceived from multiple perspectives, each of which sheds distinct insight on the thing being examined.
Self-evident to us in the 21st century? Perhaps. But if you read the literature on rivers, you see a lot of one-dimensional views. The Mississippi river’s hydrology is examined, or the aquatic ecology to be affected by invasive fish species. Lately there’s been a lot of concern about the engineering of the river: can it carry the barge traffic that we need for it to? Read more →
While it’s true that the title of this post could refer to pretty nearly anything, today the subject is the Dakota War of 1862 or, more properly, one particular reaction to it.
On Wednesday January 9, the St. Paul City Council passed a resolution commemorating the Dakota War, recognizing 2013 as “The Year of the Dakota,” and directing the city’s parks and recreation department to work with Dakota people and identify Dakota names for places on the Mississippi River in the city that are important to Dakota people. Read more →