Team project

Sustainable RIVER is designed to provide students with the experiences
needed to foster interdisciplinary learning through research.  
Students will:
  • Gain disciplinary expertise through individual research projects
  • Develop place-based knowledge through six field trips that span more than 1000 km of the Missouri River
  • Learn how to be productive team members
  • Integrate their knowledge to make systems-based management recommendations

Student Development as Interdisciplinary Researchers

Through the research projects described on the "research projects" page, students in the Sustainable RIVER project will gain in-depth knowledge of how to conduct science as an ecologist, earth scientist, or social scientist. Most sustainability challenges, however, are not from a single discipline; they are complex, and understanding and addressing these problems requires solutions derived from interdisciplinary approaches.

A unique and innovative component of the Sustainable RIVER project is that students will devote a significant amount of time to learning how to work in an interdisciplinary team so as to synthesize their diverse knowledge sets in order to address a pressing sustainability challenge. In order to foster interdisciplinary team learning, the Sustainable RIVER project will be designed to engage the students in a collaborative, student-led project to address the complex challenge: How do we cultivate a more resilient Missouri River that meets the needs of multiple stakeholders and sustains diverse, functioning ecosystems?

The Sustainable RIVER students will work with their primary, faculty research mentors on their independent research projects, but there will be significant group programming where all of the Sustainable RIVER students will come together. The group will experience multiple aspects of the Missouri River through field trips, will learn about the Missouri River through discussions with invited speakers who represent different stakeholder groups, will learn about and practice team dynamics through designed programs, and will design and develop their team project.

Field Trips

The Sustainable RIVER group will take field trips during the REU program in order to engage participants with multiple aspects of the Missouri River that are needed to understand the Missouri River more systemically.  Below are examples of field trips that may be taken.

1. 59-mile reach of the MNRR

USD is located along the 59-mile reach of the MNRR, which is the stretch of the Missouri River after the last major dam and before the river is channelized before Sioux City, IA. The team will take a guided kayak tour of the 59-mile reach of the MNRR. The field trip will focus on the geology of the landscape, hydrology of the river, sediment processes in the 59-mile reach, current river management including invasive species management, riparian ecosystems, and early Euro-American settler history. The trip will also include a hike through North Alabama Bend, a 22 ha property purchased by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) which will expose students to the range of ecosystems that are present along the river including tallgrass prairie, riparian forest, sand dunes, and sand bars.

2. Santee Sioux Reservation

Nebraska Indian Community College (NICC), a Sustainable RIVER project collaborator, has a campus on the Santee Sioux Reservation located along the Missouri River in Santee, NE. The Santee Sioux Reservation is located upstream of the Gavins Point Dam and is impacted by sedimentation due to the dam’s presence. The team will take a full-day field trip to the Santee Sioux Reservation which will include a guided kayak tour of the river. The field trip will compare the landscape geology, river hydrology, sediment processes, and current river management near the Santee Sioux Reservation to those along the 59-mile reach. The field trip will have a large focus on Native American culture including a tour of the reservation, a talk from a tribe elder, and attendance at the annual pow wow.

3. Arikara Cultural Center

The Arikara Cultural Center is located in White Shield, ND on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in western North Dakota along Lake Sakakawea, which is the reservoir formed from the Garrison Dam on the Missouri River. Nueta, Hidatsa, and Sahnish College (NHSC), located in New Town, ND, is collaborating with USD on this project. This trip will take two days and include multiple stops along the river up to White Shield. The field trip will focus on Arikara culture and language preservation, historical and current effects of the Garrison Dam and Lake Sakakawea on the Arikara Nation, and comparisons between non-nomadic tribes such as the Arikara and nomadic tribes such as the Sioux. This trip will also focus on the spatial changes of the Missouri River from Vermillion, SD to Lake Sakakawea, ND (more than 1000 km of the river).

4. Audubon Bend Missouri River Recovery Program Site

Audubon Bend is a 960 ha USACE site along the MNRR in Cedar County, NE. The USACE manages the site in order to provide habitat for animals including threatened and endangered species and to provide a recreational area. Due to the vast size of the site, it is being restored in sections, and therefore contains restorations that are multiple years old and sections that are still in annual row-crop production. The field trip will focus on the ecosystems present at Audubon Bend, threatened and endangered species management, the management and restoration methods being used at Audubon Bend, and the USACE process for acquiring and managing land.

5. Gavins Point Dam and National Fish Hatchery

The Gavins Point Dam is a hydroelectric USACE dam on the Missouri River near Yankton, SD. The dam, authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1944, created Lewis & Clark Lake, which is a source of recreation for more than 2 million people annually. The tour will focus on the authorized uses that have been designated for the Missouri River – which are hydroelectric power, flood control, navigation, municipal water, irrigation, fish and wildlife habitat, and recreation – and how the dam modulates those uses. We will also tour the Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery and Aquarium (NFHA) near Yankton which is operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The NFHA raises threatened and endangered species in addition to game fish. Pairing the dam tour with the NFHA tour will provide a comparison between different two federal agencies, the USACE and the USFWS, both of which play a major role in environmental conservation.

6. Ponca State Park and Sioux City

Ponca State Park, managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, is located near Ponca, NE on the eastern edge of the 59-mile reach of the MNRR. From the vantage point of the high bluffs along the park trails, the transition between the unchannelized and channelized stretches of the Missouri River is visible. Ponca State Park also hosts one of three constructed backwater complexes along the 59-mile reach of the MNRR. After Ponca State Park, we will travel to the Sioux City area to see changes in land use along the channelized Missouri River and learn about how channelization impacts the river ecosystem and Dakota Dunes, a community heavily impacted by the Missouri River flood of 2011. The field trip will focus on river channelization, flow regulation and flooding, floodplain economic development, and water resource policy.