Issue Six : Spring 2017

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Students in the Augsburg River Semester Program at the Headwaters of the Mississippi River, Lake Itasca, South Clearwater, MN. Image courtesy of river_semester Instagram.

What we Learned from the River

What happens when you leave the confines of the classroom, step away from the whiteboards, data projectors, and PowerPoints, and move into the richness of the world itself? In August 2015, a group 17 students, staff, and faculty from Augsburg College loaded four 24-foot voyageur canoes with their gear and started paddling down the Mississippi River as part of the first River Semester.

Eroded stream and river banks allow excess sediment — primarily clay and silt — into waterways. Sediment is considered a contaminant and contributes to cloudy, murky water, which degrades habitat for fish and aquatic life. Image via MPCA Photos, Flickr.

Agriculture and the River: The University’s Role in Societal Learning, Innovation, and Action

By Nicholas R. Jordan, Carissa Schively Slotterback, David Mulla, and Len Kne. Rivers are critical connectors across our communities, states, and national boundaries. They offer essential benefits in the form of drinking water, recreation, transport, food, and aesthetics. At the same time, human activities, from agriculture to urban land use, affect rivers profoundly…

The St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, taken from the Minneapolis Stone Arch Bridge. Photographer Patrick O'Leary. Image courtesy of SAFL.

The Lab on the River: The St. Anthony Falls Laboratory at the University of Minnesota

When viewing the Minneapolis skyline, one generally doesn’t think of hydraulic research laboratories. Indeed, from the Stone Arch Bridge… the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory building looks rather nondescript. Yet, this facility, associated with the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota, is an interdisciplinary research facility whose work is focused at the intersection of fluid dynamics and major societal challenges in energy, environment, and health…

Stretch of the Los Angeles River in the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Area.

Making an Icon out of the Los Angeles River

Rivers have long been the spines of our greatest cities. Regardless of your geography prowess, you have no doubt heard of them—Thames, Seine, Potomac, Tiber, Ganges, Nile. These names twist through our history and culture in ways that imitate their own billowing shapes. They feed our wells and our fields. They clean away our rubbish. They are the arteries of our civilization…

WetLand + Refinery: View from The WetLand Project's floating lab motoring up the Schuylkill River. Image by Phil Flynn.

Forgotten Places and Radical Hope on Philadelphia’s Tidal Schuylkill River

By Bethany Wiggin. How do we see an urban, industrial river? How do we hear its stories? Who gets to tell them? I first got on the lower, tidal Schuylkill River on October fifth, 2015. With a boat captain, a first mate, and a photographer, I was helping push a floating lab for experiments in sustainability into position. Since that day, these questions about how to see and to listen for Philadelphia rivers’ stories have occupied me, a historian trained originally in European literature and in the print culture of the colonial Atlantic world…

Aerial view of University of Minnesota East and West Bank campuses and the Mississippi River.

Introduction to Issue Six

The world of higher education is notoriously siloed. Colleges and universities are divided into departments by discipline, which often contain particular subdisciplines. Crossing these lines is difficult and sometimes perilous. But the study of rivers and water necessarily crosses disciplines. Scientific study can tell us a lot about water, but not what the meaning of our local river is…