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Exhibition Spotlight: A Century of IIHR Research on the Mississippi River

Nov 10, 2021

12:00 PM

21 N Clinton St, Iowa City, IA 52245

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Virtual Event

IIHR Educational Program Image

The UI Pentacrest Museums welcome the University of Iowa's IIHRHydroscience and Engineering for a two-part virtual program focusing on IIHR’s history of research and engineering on the Mississippi River and an overview of current watershed initiatives that the 101-year-old institute is leading today. These educational programs are in conjunction with IIHR's centennial exhibition, A River Flowed Through It: Iowa's Legacy in Fluid Mechanics, on display through December 2021 at the Old Capitol Museum of the University of Iowa campus and also available as a virtual exhibit.

IIHR’s work on the Mississippi River dates to the 1920s, when researchers set out to measure the flow of the river just upstream of the Keokuk Dam (now part of Lock and Dam No. 19) at Keokuk, Iowa. IIHR Director Floyd Nagler also modeled the dam’s spillways for the Mississippi River Power Company.

In the late ’20s, research interests on the Mississippi River expanded to flood control and the impacts of agriculture on the basin. During this time, the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers, working with Nagler and others at IIHR, began the 9-Foot Channel Project, supported by an act of Congress. The goal was to make the river deeper and wider to create more safe, reliable passageways for commercial navigation. The project became the system of locks and dams we’re familiar with today. The unexpected impacts of the project are also still being felt.

Part I, Wednesday, November 10: During part I of this two-part program, climate expert and IIHR Director Gabriele Villarini will introduce IIHR’s history of research and engineering on the Mississippi River. Following this introduction, Augustana College Research Associate Matthew Fockler will share his project, Two Mississippi — a historical and geographic investigation of the Upper Mississippi River since its greatest manmade alteration, the 9-Foot Channel Project. Two Mississippi is an invitation to step into and along the Upper Mississippi River and explore its past, present, and future. Fockler uses repeat photography, archival research, critical GIS mapping, and oral history to examine the dramatic human and ecological landscape changes that have occurred on the Upper Mississippi River since the 9-Foot Channel Project became reality. His Mississippi River research can be previewed at www.two-mississippi.com.

Part II, Wednesday, November 17: During part II of the program, Dr. Villarini will discuss the evolution of IIHR’s research expertise in water resources engineering and the impacts of climate change on watershed management. The presentation will include an overview of current watershed initiatives underway, including the $97M Iowa Watershed Approach program aimed at reducing flood risk, improving water quality, and building more resilient communities. IIHR’s leadership has improved the health and sustainability of watersheds throughout the state, but the impacts have far-reaching effects all the way to the Mississippi River and beyond.

REGISTER HERE for Zoom link to Session I
REGISTER HERE for Zoom link to Session II

Speaker Bios:

Gabriele Villarini

Gabriele Villarini

Gabriele Villarini is a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Iowa. He is also the Robert and Virginia Wheeler Faculty Fellow in Engineering.

He serves as director of IIHR—Hydroscience and Engineering, a world-renowned center for education, research, and public service focusing on fluids-related research. He is also a member of the Iowa Flood Center, the only university-based center devoted solely to flood-related research and education. Villarini’s research interests focus broadly on flood hydrology, extreme events, hydroclimatology, and climate predictions and projections.

Matthew Fockler

Matthew Fockler
Matthew Fockler is a research associate and historical geographer at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. His research explores public land management and resource use. He has written a historical and cultural geography of water management on the Truckee River in Nevada and a historical geography of Forest Service landscapes in the Crown of the Continent ecosystem in northern Montana. His current research, “Two Mississippi,” is a historical geography of the Upper Mississippi River since the Great Depression.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa–sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact in advance at