Most of the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus is within the borders of a National Park Service unit, the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. And thanks to the River Life program at the Institute on the Environment, students tap the learning potential of the park's resource base every day - and give back as well in the shape of research projects that boost the park's ability to meet the needs of visitors of all ages and stages of life.
River Life's University Honors Program-National Park Service Research Internship program, established in 2011, is a great example of making the most of the educational opportunities offered by this unique setting. Currently, the nine students who make up the program's first cohort are working on some pretty interesting projects:
• Amal Gazey (junior, College of Education and Human Development) is proposing a program to get Muslim women students physically active in the National Park through ranger-led hikes and bike events
• Abbie Hanson (junior, College of Biological Sciences) is exploring a collaborative education model offered by the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventure in Minneapolis
• Dan Hnilicka (senior, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences) is researching the collaborative habitat restoration efforts on Pool 8 on the Mississippi near LaCrosse
• Jack Kelly (junior, College of Liberal Arts) is proposing a student writing contest that would open the park up to more University of Minnesota students
• Alicia Nelson (sophomore, College of Liberal Arts) is planning a student photography contest that would strengthen the connections between U of M students and the national park
• Jennifer Nicklay (senior, College of Biological Sciences) is examining a habitat restoration project at the Loosahatchie Bar on the Mississippi near Memphis
• Simge Okut (first-year student, College of Liberal Arts) is gathering information on national models for university-based student and community engagement programs on rivers
• Jon Schroeder (senior, Carlson School of Management) is studying development and lessons learned from collaboration at the Riverlands Center, near St. Louis
• Stephanie Schumacher (senior, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences) is researching faculty resources at the U of M and other area colleges that can be applied to National Park Service knowledge needs.
More information on these projects - including instructions on entering the writing and photography contests - will be posted on the River Life website, riverlife.umn.edu, in the months ahead. Check it out!
Photo by Joanne Richardson