CONTACT: GARY GALLUZZO
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0009; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: May 7, 2001
(NOTE TO EDITORS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS: UI President Mary Sue Coleman; Lynn Sasmazer,
program officer for the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust; Jeffrey Vonk, Iowa
DNR director; and others are scheduled to speak at the 3:30 p.m. MRERS groundbreaking.
MRERS can be reached by taking Highway 22 about seven miles east of Muscatine
to Fairport and following the black-and-gold signs to MRERS. Call 319-330-8714
on May 10, if additional help with directions is needed.)
Groundbreaking is May 10 for Mississippi river research station
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Mississippi River, the nation's most storied waterway,
will move one step closer to becoming the world's most studied river at 3:30
p.m. Thursday, May 10.
That's when the University of Iowa's internationally renowned Iowa Institute
of Hydraulic Research (IIHR) will break ground seven miles east of Muscatine
near the community of Fairport for the construction of the Mississippi Riverside
Environmental Research Station (MRERS), designed to be the world's most comprehensive
river research station.
Existing monitoring stations routinely study such selected variables as
flood levels, sedimentation, fish populations, aquatic plants, water quality,
flood effects, and the impact of industrialization. MRERS, scheduled to open
this winter, will be the only station of its kind to look at virtually all
aspects of the river, according to V.C. Patel, IIHR director. "MRERS
will bring together researchers and students from different disciplines to
work on problems that cannot be addressed in the traditional way by engineers,
biologists, and planners acting on their own," he says.
The idea to build the station originated from IIHR Associate Director Tatsuaki
Nakato's 1995 five-week trip down the Mississippi on an 18-foot jon boat to
investigate riverbank erosion between St. Paul, Minn. and Cairo, Ill.
"From early in the morning, to late at night, we worked on the river.
I thought, 'How little knowledge of the river we have.' I was overwhelmed
by nature's work," Nakato says. "Because there is no way we can
simulate the Mississippi River in the lab; we need a good field observation
"The interaction between the lock and dam system and river bank protection;
how the lock and dam causes silting but also creates wetlands; and why the
fish population is declining -- those are some of the things we will study.
Eventually, we want to have everything remotely sensed, but that technology
is far in the future," he says. "This will be a facility where scientists
in different fields, biologists, hydrologists and others, will be in the same
boat and the same building and can teach each other. This will also be a great
place for the education of elementary and high school students."
Because it will take a holistic look at the Mississippi River, MRERS may
change the way other rivers are studied. Patel and Nakato say that is only
natural since MRERS, in some respects, is modeled after two renowned organizations
that take a holistic approach toward ocean research: Scripps Institute of
Oceanography in San Diego, Calif. and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in
Woods Hole, Mass. "In a similar way, MRERS will stimulate multidisciplinary
research to assess the long-term impact of natural events and human activities
on the river ecosystem and evaluate alternative strategies to protect it,"
Support for MRERS comes from a number of sources. The Roy J. Carver Charitable
Trust of Muscatine provided $1.2 million for construction of the facility.
Private gifts, including a classroom gift by Marie F. Carter of Bettendorf
in memory of her husband, UI alumnus Archie N. Carter, and a gift to name
a laboratory from Richard and Mary Jo Stanley of Muscatine, are also helping
drive the project. The 7,400-square-foot building is being designed by Stanley
Consultants, Inc. and will open in the winter of 2001. The Iowa Department
of Natural Resources (DNR) is providing three acres of land to the university
at no charge and with considerable interest in the station because the DNR
operates a fish hatchery next door.
The Institute, a unit of the UI College of Engineering, is one of the world's
premier and oldest fluids research and engineering laboratories. Students
and visitors from around the world have come to IIHR to study and conduct
research and to carry acquired expertise back to their home countries.