Biological Sciences

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Ghost forest panorama in coastal North Carolina. Image by Emily Ury, CC BY-ND.

Ghost Forests

Sea level rise is killing trees along the Atlantic coast, creating ‘ghost forests’ that are visible from space. Trekking out to my research sites near North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, I slog through knee-deep water on a section of trail that is completely submerged. Permanent flooding has become commonplace on this low-lying peninsula, nestled behind North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The trees growing in the water are small and stunted. Many are dead…

Climate Land Leaders are learning that soil health is needed for healthy waters. Image courtesy of Sharing Our Roots.

Creating Our Water Futures

This issue of Open Rivers invites us all to envision the kind of future we hope to have with water. It encourages us to see the possibilities. By imagining the relationships we want with water, imagining the water conditions we want to see in our future, we begin to see both the challenges and potentials in our present and the steps necessary to move us to these desired and desirable water conditions…

Landscape view at Whitewater Park. Notice the fields on the hillside. Image courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Fields: The Transformation and Healing of the Whitewater Valley

They say hindsight is 20/20. Farmers of the past didn’t have information about environmentally friendly agricultural techniques. The farming techniques used today to reduce erosion and other negative environmental effects were developed as we learned from agriculturally derived disasters. Situated in the Whitewater River Valley less than 10 miles from the confluence with the Mississippi River, Beaver, Minnesota was one such town that suffered…

View of Duluth on the shores of Lake Superior, showing the Aerial Lift Bridge and the Great Lakes Aquarium.

Eyes on Large Lakes

“A lake is a landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” So said H.D. Thoreau in Walden, conjuring an image of human eyes peering intently into Earth’s eyes, and learning something profound in the process. Indeed, who among us hasn’t gazed into one of these watery eyes of Earth, into a lake’s mysterious depths, and had their souls stirred, their curiosity piqued?…

An aerial shot of a farm. The farmhouse appears in the center, and the crops surround it and are bordered by a lake.

The Future of Agriculture in a Water-Rich State

In 1920, Minnesota held 2.4 million people and 132,744 farms. Corn production was near 100 million bushels per year. By 1929, 18.5 million acres were under cultivation. Nearly 100 years later, the state has 5.4 million people, 74,500 farms, and 26 million acres of farmland. Annual production of corn is about 1.5 billion bushels and soybean is about 380 million bushels. Over that century, agricultural technology and infrastructure changed profoundly…

MAISRC researcher Przemek Bajer and his team studying the use of bluegills as a biological control for common carp.

Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center

The Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) was founded in late 2012 when the Minnesota legislature and the University of Minnesota took a leadership role in the fight against aquatic invasive species (AIS) and created our interdisciplinary, innovative, and forward-thinking Center. This initiative was led by Dr. Peter Sorensen, a well-known invasive carp researcher who is still working with the Center on several projects…

NRRI researchers sort through samples collected at Lake Mille Lacs last summer to understand how invasive species are impacting the food web of walleye.

NRRI’s Systems Approach to Minnesota Water Challenges

Water equals life, and in Minnesota especially, clean water equals quality of life.  As one of our state’s most prized resources, the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) takes water seriously.  Founded in 1983 by the state legislature, NRRI was established to balance economic development of natural resources with environmental sustainability. Applied research solutions for water challenges…

Field work in the Minnesota basin differed from that of the St. Croix. The rivers were murkier and often lined by agricultural land. Image courtesy of Mark Hove.

Mosquitoes, Muck, and Mussels: A Look Into Scientific Research

The aspiring young undergraduate scientists envision fieldwork as a romantic escape from the office cubicle, classroom desk, and seemingly endless pile of homework. Working alongside experts in their field, they anticipate working in the wildest regions of the world: dense tropical forests, remote mountain ranges, and distant glacial rivers. They see themselves on the forefront of groundbreaking discoveries: truly shattering the scientific community with a cure for Malaria, discovery of a new species, or theory of planetary evolution.