Faculty and Course Development Opportunities

Ordway Water Quality and Weather Data

Student Projects


Environmental Studies Department
Olin Rice 249
1600 Grand Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55105
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Faculty and Course Development Opportunities

Approved Grants


Student-Faculty Research - Students: Margot White and Samantha DelSerra; Faculty: Sarah Boyer, Biology

Student-Faculty Research - Student: Agata Miszczyk; Faculty: David Lanegran, Geography

Student-Faculty Research - Student: Clare MacMillen; Faculty: Jerald Dosch, Biology

Student-Faculty Research - Student: Jansen Smith; Faculty: Ray Rogers, Geology

Jansen Smith is studying the taphonomy of different burial sites on the floodplain of the Mississippi River at Ordway.  His project is an actualistic experiment designed to track the relative degradation of fish, mammal, and mollusk skeletal remains in different burial environments.  The project entails the burial and scheduled exhumation of carcasses, with the goal of tracking recovery rates, and surface modifications on bones and shells imparted in different burial environments.  These results of this experiment will advance our understanding of biases in the fossil record, which is essential for accurate paleoecological reconstructions.


Course Development - Kathryn Pratt

Incorporate a Three Rivers component as a case study in how urban ecologies are conceptualized, managed, and connected to the everyday practices of urban residents in the Urban Ecology:  Communities, Politics, and Sustainability course.

Course Development - Kelly MacGregor

Incorporate hands-on research and data analysis from the Mississippi, the St. Croix, and the Minnesota Rivers (and select tributaries) into two upper level courses (Geomorphology and Surface and Groundwater Hydroology) and one introductory course (Environmental Geology).

Student-Faculty Research - Student: Kimberly Brown; Faculty: Christie Manning

Student-Faculty Research - Student: Carl Skarbek; Faculty: Kelly MacGregor

"Suspended Solids Transport on the St. Croix:  Impacts of the St. Croix Falls Dam" - Transport of inorganic and organic particles in the water column is a key process for the 40 species of filter feeding freshwater mussels that inhabit the St. Croix River, nearly half of which are endangered or threatened.  Structures like the St. Croix Falls Dam can impede suspended solid transport, affecting downstream habitat. Due to a decline in juvenile mussel density below the St. Croix Falls Dam over the past two decades (Hornbach and others, 2009) we are interested in spatial variability in suspended matter as well as how suspended solid concentrations change during the annual hydrologic cycle. This project examines the quantity of suspended sediment and organic matter in the river at four sites, two above and two below the St. Croix Falls hydroelectric dam, during the annual flow cycle from 2008-2010. We are interested in locating sources and sinks of suspended material between Nevers Dam and Franconia, and seek to understand factors controlling the entrainment and transport of suspended material.  We considered rainfall events and water discharge as possible drivers of variability in suspended solids concentration. Analysis of suspended solids samples from the past two years demonstrate there is not one single factor controlling the transport of suspended solids.  Between January 2008 and June 2009, suspended sediment concentration (SSC) closely tracked water discharge at all four sites.  However, between Summer 2009 and Summer 2010 water discharge was not a good predictor of SSC, with peak concentrations occurring at relatively low discharges.  Overall we found water discharge to be the best predictor of SSC, though the concentrations in 2009 and 2010 suggest that there are also other factors at work.  Rainfall records from Wild River State Park were examined to see if the amount of rain, which is associated with sediment runoff and SSC flux, was a good predictor of SSC spikes.  There were some loose associations, but no strong correlation. There were no statistically significant differences found in surface SSC at the four sites examined, suggesting that the dam practices being implemented have limited impact on the transport of the finest suspended materials. The average amount of total suspended solids (TSS) through the two year period of this study was 0.0086 g/L, nearly 36% of which was found to be organic.  The TSS increased from 2008 to 2009 by 0.0005 g/L, a significant amount, considering the size of the St. Croix. Looking more closely at weather records and other possible variables including development practices and storm events will allow us to better constrain the controls on suspended solids transport over the past two years. 

Student-Faculty Research - Student: Maggie Pearson; Faculty: Jerald Dosch and Holly Barcus


Course Development - Prof. Paula Cooey, Religious Studies

The concept end evokes temporal finality, in some contexts with an apocalyptic bent (“Repent and believe!  The end of the world is nigh,” or “History as we know it will come to an end with a classless society”).  At the same time, end also refers to spatial termination (‘the end of the road, or” “dead end”) or to purpose, aim, or goal (“the end of humankind is to go forth and multiply and to have dominion over the earth,” or “God created the world for the divine good pleasure”).  I propose to teach an interdisciplinary course on religion and the environment that examines how selected American religious traditions view the end of the world in all of these various senses.  The course will focus comparatively on Christian, Buddhist, and indigenous traditions.  It will examine how cosmologies, eschatologies, practices and beliefs have developed, since Rachel Carson’s publication of Silent Spring, in response to environmental concerns with ecological exploitation, scarcity of natural resources, sustainability, and global warming.  While I expect to provide historical context and overview of these developments, the course will focus primarily on local responses within the Three Rivers area.  I plan to develop the course while on academic leave in the spring 2010 and into the following summer.  I plan to teach it the following fall as a first-year seminar to be cross-listed with the departments of Religious Studies and Environmental Studies.

Course Development - Prof. Roopali Phadke, Environmental Studies, and Kelly MacGregor, Geology

We each currently teach a course, Environmental Geology (MacGregor) and Water and Power (Phadke), which includes Three Rivers topics, field trips and assignments.  In designing a co-taught course, our goal is to bring our areas of expertise together so that students can more seamlessly explore water science and policy issues.  While our course will address river systems beyond those in Minnesota, our goal is to use the Three Rivers component to introduce students to fundamental water science and policy issues.  After this portion of the course, we will use the insights we have gained to explore other important river basins around the world.  Our proposed course will offer students an introduction to hydrology and water policy.

Course Development - Prof. Chris Wells, Environmental Studies

Development of a new course related to the Three Rivers.  I am asking for support to develop a new 100-level course, titled "Environmental History of the Three Rivers," while I am on sabbatical during the 2009-2010 school year.  I would offer this course as a cross-listing between Environmental Studies and History, and ideally it could count within the department’s curriculum as a substitute for my typical introductory survey course, ENVI/HIST 234: U.S. Environmental History.  As such, it would cover the standard introductory themes in American environmental history, but would do so specifically through the lens of the examples of the Three Rivers.

Course Development - Prof. Chris Wells, Environmental Studies

Collaborate with the Minnesota Historical Society on a curriculum development project.  At Macalester, this would result in the development of the St. Croix section of a new course 100-level course, titled "Environmental History of the Three Rivers," and at the Minnesota Historical Society it would result in the development of five or six new “modules” for the True North curriculum series, which helps Minnesota public school teachers meet state curriculum requirements for Minnesota history.  I would ultimately be responsible for the St. Croix curriculum that will be included in the course at Macalester, and Nancy O'Brien Wagner would ultimately be responsible for the content of the True North curriculum, but our work would be collaborative, overlapping, and complementary.

Student-Faculty Research - Student: Jemma Brown; Faculty: Ellen Arnold, History, and Dan Hornbach, Environmental Studies

During the summer of 2009, Jemma Brown will be conducting historical research into the damming of the St. Croix River as part of the Mellon 3-Rivers Grant.  Jemma is hoping to generate not only a history of specific St. Croix dams (the St. Croix Falls Hydro and Nevers Dam), but also to understand how dams along the St. Croix have created a legacy lasting into the twenty first century.  The transition from an exclusively industrial logging dam site to a source of hydropower and an aesthetic sanctuary has altered the purpose and vision of the St. Croix River.  The research will examine how a select number of St. Croix dams fit into a larger understanding of the history of the St. Croix, Minnesota, and the Upper Midwest. While academic in technique, the final product of this research will be intended for general consumption in order to increase public understanding of the history of damming.  Jemma will be conducting her research using both archival and site-based methods and working in collaboration with Ellen Arnold from the History Department, Daniel Hornbach from Environmental Studies, and with the Minnesota Historical Center.

Student-Faculty Research - Students: Laura Chamberlain and Ian Dando; Faculty: Prof. David Lanegran and Birgit Muehlenhaus, Geography

"Urbanization of Flood Plains:  Hazards and Response" - This research will take a contrasting but complementary approach and begin to examine cities as ecological systems that are greatly influenced but not entirely controlled by human systems of development and management.  In it we will consider human-environment interactions as critical processes that shape urban areas.  We will focus on the Mississippi, Canon, Vermillion, Zumbro, Root, Whitewater and Cedar rivers for several reasons; first we are located in the watershed.  Second we have access to a range of valley conditions within a relatively short drive from the campus.  Third we want to contrast the flooding events and reactions to them in both small and large river valleys and small, medium and large cities.  We will have to opportunity to study the results of and reactions to several flooding that occurred in several tributaries of Mississippi during June of 2009.  Finally we will have access to a range of planning agencies dealing with flood plain management.

Student-Faculty Research - Student: Stephanie Kleinschmidt; Faculty: Prof. Holly Barcus and Birgit Muehlenhaus, Geography

"Upper St. Croix Streamflow Research" - In 2004, the USGS published findings about the St. Croix River water flow based on two different measuring stations:  Danbury and St. Croix Falls. The data, available until 2001, from these stations revealed that the stream flow at St. Croix Falls, the downstream station, was significantly higher than that at Danbury.  The USGS ruled out differences in climate between the stations as a cause of this disparity because the sites are in close proximity to each other, but said that “the trends of increased flow between Danbury and St. Croix Falls may be related to factors other than climate, such as hydropower operation, population growth, changes in agricultural practices, or changes in land use.  Additional study would be needed to substantiate and quantify such relations."  In the Summer of 2008, Louise Sharrow started research on the changes in land use, land cover, agricultural practices, dam protocols, and population that had occurred above Danbury and between Danbury and St. Croix Falls. She also examined the impact these changes had on streamflow and runoff.  It was found that urbanization, deforestation, the amount of impervious surfaces, and agricultural practices had all increased.  Based on the USGS 2004 report and the conclusion of Louise’s work, hydrological modeling and analyses are needed to better understand the relationship between all of the factors contributing to the discrepancies in stream flow at the Danbury and St. Croix Falls stations.  This research project will contribute to this need by investigating the following primary research question through modeling:  How are changes in land use, urbanization/impervious surfaces, and population affecting runoff and streamflow in the St. Croix watershed?

Student-Faculty Research - Student: Nate Jurgens; Faculty: Prof. Sarah Boyer, Prof. Dan Hornbach, and Mark Hove, Biology, and Kevin Roe, Dept. of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Iowa State University

During the summer of 2009, a Macalester undergraduate will work with faculty to develop microsattelite loci for our phylogeographic work and to continue construction of our DNA sequence reference library for the DNA barcoding project.  This student will gain valuable field and laboratory research experience and will present a poster on his or her work at the 2009 St. Croix River Research Rendezvous.  In addition, work on one or both projects will continue into the Fall 2009 semester in Biology 476:  Research in Biodiversity and Evolution, taught by Prof. Boyer, thereby benefiting an additional six Macalester students.  Depending on the outcome of student projects in this course, one project will be developed as a multiweek laboratory research module for Biology 270:  Biodiversity and Evolution in the spring 2010 semester, involving 48 students.  Beyond providing a student with a rich research experience in the summer of 2009, the proposed activities will have far-reaching benefits for students at Macalester.


Course Development - Prof. Holly Barcus, Geography

Develop a new course titled “Rural Landscapes and Livelihoods: A Geography of Rural Landuse and Community Change.” Course description and objectives: The Minnesota, Mississippi, and St. Croix River watersheds collectively encompass no less than 42 of the 87 counties in Minnesota. Within this area lies the rapidly expanding Twin Cities urban center on one end of the development spectrum, and a significant expanse of rural land characterized by intensive agriculture interspersed with extensive recreational opportunities on the other. Forming the backbones of these landscapes are the Mississippi, Minnesota, and St. Croix Rivers. This course will focus on the human elements of land changes within the watersheds of the Three Rivers, including such issues as agricultural changes, land conversion, and land management. Rural community strategies for adapting to and accommodating competing demands for water and land use will be considered, including pressure for new housing developments, recreation opportunities (boating, fishing, hiking, biking), and conservation needs. Broadly, the course will address issues of urban expansion and rural landuse change and the effects of responses to local policy and development on watershed and river system health. Using the Three Rivers study area to frame our discussions, students will explore the rapidly changing rural environments of Minnesota and develop a greater understanding of the interconnectedness of human and physical systems more broadly.

Course Development - Prof. Andrea Cremer, History

As a new history faculty member, I have volunteered to revise and teach the freshman seminar, "The Global in the Local."  This course introduces new Macalester students to key issues global significance through immersion in local history.  The sights and sounds of the Twin Cities region not only helps students to understand the ways in which their living and learning environment extends beyond the Macalester campus, but also enhances student awareness of the diverse, complex history of Minneapolis/St. Paul and the state of Minnesota.  With support from the Mellon Three Rivers Center Grant, I would be able to devote my time and resources to developing a course that approaches the history of Minnesota framed by the presence, persistence, and influence of these important waterways.  The course would be divided into three sections: " Three Rivers and Native Societies," will explore the history of the region prior to European settlement.  The three rivers provided important lines of cultural and material exchange well before the arrival of European traders.  This segment of the course will assist students in grasping the local and global significance of indigenous history and the vitality of indigenous cultures in Minnesota.  "0 Pioneers!" will explore the significance of the waterways to the explosion of immigrant and settler populations in the nineteenth century.  The course will continue to address the role of Native Americans and their encounters with Euro-American settlers in this era of intense social and environmental change.  "Rivers of the Nation," will examine the industrial revolution and the growth of U. S. nationalism in the later nineteenth century.  Special attention will be given to the growth of Fort Snelling and its key position at the juncture of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers.  This section of the course will interrogate the rivers' roles in industry and warfare, specifically the role of rivers in supplying military forts and personnel in the Civil War.  Click here for the syllabus.

Course Development - Prof. Wang Ping, English

I propose to teach a new course in the fall, 2008: "Where the Rivers Gather and Waters Meet: Projects of Writing on Minnesota's Three Rivers."  This course will take a cross-genre and interdisciplinary approach, a combination of academic research and creative writing, critical thinking and workshop, as well as the fieldwork and interviews.  It will use the Minnesota, Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers near the campus and the cities as the sites for field trips, research, interviews with the local communities along the rivers, and for final writing projects, which will include one research paper, one interview, one poem, one short story, and one personal essay, all related to the river or the water theme, with special attention to the environmental issues.  This interdisciplinary course will examine the interactions between culture and nature, how humans have been affecting and affected by the rivers, and how agriculture, transportation, dams, industries, and recreation development have changed the rivers and their environment in many ways.  The students will choose their own research topics such as wetland drainage, land, water and forest resources, human population growth, agriculture, urban/suburb expansion, tour industry, biodiversity and eco-justice in the three-river region, and all topics should include the notion of the ecosystem that has been sustained by the coexistence and interaction between plants, animals, humans, and other life forms, the system which is facing big challenges due to human activities and global warming.  The students will conduct their fieldwork and interviews along the rivers near the Twin Cities.

Course Revision - Prof. Chris Wells, Environmental Studies

This is a course revision request to add a new unit to my course, ENVI/HIST 234: American Environmental History, which will focus on the designation of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway as one of the eight original rivers to be protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968.  Adding this unit will strengthen the course in several important ways.  First, it will add a much-needed local case study to the course. As the final paper for the course, I ask students to write a "place paper" - to select a place that they know well or can research easily and to write its environmental history.  Although many of the course readings model this type of approach to doing environmental history, the course does not currently have any readings based on local places.  Adding this local case study will allow me to model both the type of research and the place-based approach that I want them to follow for their final papers.  Second, because this course is one of the Environmental Studies department's three "gateway" courses, adding this unit to the class will create a nice advertisement for the broader opportunities offered by the Three Rivers Center.  Third, as a case study of the environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the designation of the St. Croix as a Wild and Scenic River illustrates key political goals (such as river protection), important actors (such as Walter Mondale and Gaylord Nelson, who conceived the original Earth Day), the varying responses of different levels of government (local, state, national) to environmental problems, and the differing roles of top-down and grass-roots approaches to environmental protection.  This is, in other words, an excellent opportunity to teach the history of 1960s/1970s environmentalism using a local framework.


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