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Daniela Daniele took this picture to show that her research interests began with the canal that flows behind her apartment. This semester she’s defending her master’s thesis on the historical ecology of the Miami River. Image courtesy of Daniela Daniele.

Reflections on Negotiating the Science-Society Relationship Together

At the Tropical Rivers Lab at Florida International University, rivers have convened us to think deeply about how to best understand them and apply that understanding towards their conservation and sustainable management. We explore different aspects of south Florida ecosystems, Amazonian riverscapes, and East African waters, with collaborations across the tropics. When we decide “how” to best understand rivers, it is not just about the scientific questions we ask, but also about where those questions come from, how we relate to them, and ultimately, how these questions mediate our role with society…

St. Anthony Falls Laboratory on the Minneapolis riverfront in 1942. The landmarks of Minneapolis are evident, as well as SAFL’s intimate relationship with the river. Courtesy of University of Minnesota Archives.

Lab on the River – Snapshots of the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory

The St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL), which falls under the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota (UMN), is one of several historic buildings along the Minneapolis riverfront. Constructed in 1938 using funds from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), SAFL utilizes the 50-foot elevation drop over the St. Anthony Falls to bring water into the building for use in experiments and research of fluid dynamics…

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…