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What is a Great River?
This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to visit the Field Station of the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGRREC) in East Alton, IL. NGRREC is (per their website) a collaborative partnership between the University of Illinois, the Illinois Natural History Museum, and Lewis and Clark Community College. It is dedicated to the study of great river systems and the communities that use them.
Prior to this summer, my experience with NGRREC has mainly been to advertise their summer internship program. Students are assigned a variety of different river research projects, field experiments, and other data/specimen collection techniques. The 2014 interns were located along waterways that included here in Urbana, to Wisconsin, Iowa, and even Mississippi. However, my trip there this summer was for their “Day of Science” seminar. Researchers from all three of their collaboration units, a couple from NRES, presented their recent work and findings that are contributing to the NGRREC’s mission and goals.
Amid all the scientific progress and excited conversation, I was most enamored with the actual facility we were sitting in. NGRREC’s field station is located strategically off the bank of the confluence of the Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers. The building actually blends in very well with the horizon as its stacked stone walls and gardened roof are shaped to mimic mounds characteristic of the prairie ecosystem. Not only is the Field Station aesthetically pleasing, but it also houses some really fun innovations that have contributed to its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Chief among them are a solar water heater, permeable pavement, grey water recycling system, and SolaTubes! Now, I’ve seen some pretty cool sustainable designs before, but I had never seen a SolaTube and I’m still just as impressed today about them as I was when I took the tour of the station. SolaTubes passively capture sunlight from the roof and bring it into the building through reflective tubes. They save electricity by reducing the amount of electric light needed to illuminate a room during the day. What a great invention!
I learned a lot during my time during the “Day of Science” and I’m looking forward to keeping a closer eye on the work that NGRREC is doing and its contributions to the positive experiences of our students. I’m not able to fully explain the magnitude and majesty of NGRREC and their Field Station in just one blog post, so I encourage everyone to head on down to East Alton and check it out. And if that’s too much trouble, you can take the virtual tour located here: http://ngrrec.greentouchscreen.com/.