Editor’s Note: This post was
written by Little River’s new Research Assistant Brooke Hagarty. Brooke is a Masters student in Forestry at
SIU. She also received her B.S. in Forest Hydrology, with a minor in Soil
Science, from SIU. Her background includes being a Nature Instructor and Camp
Counselor at the local Camp Ondessonk, and a Graduate Teaching Assistant at
SIU. Her love of science, nature, and teaching help her fit right in at LRRD,
conducting research and speaking to clients about how our river models can help
improve their teaching and research.
At a Universities Council on Water Resources (UCOWR) seminar
on Southern Illinois University’s Carbondale campus last week, Dr. Richard Cruse gave a presentation titled “SOIL AND WATER:
Resources with Decreasing Life Expectancy?”
The presentation was eye opening; I am happy to have attended.
Dr. Richard Cruse is the director of the Iowa Water Center, and a Professor of
Agronomy at Iowa State University. He
has a heavy background in agriculture, and gave an effective speech on how we
are degrading our resources at an alarming rate, in turn threatening food and
There were a lot of numbers and predictions in the seminar,
and some of them really stuck out. He
gave some daunting figures for the increase of meat production (mostly cattle)
necessary to feed the growing world population and the growth of the middle
class. Predictions estimate that by
billion people will move from the lower to the middle class. Cruse said that to fulfill the meat demand of
the increased middle class, an additional 1 million cattle must be harvested
per day. With increased meat production,
there must be increased corn production to feed the livestock. The more corn production, the more water we
use and soil we deplete, as already observed worldwide with the depletion of
aquifer levels and farmable soil.
I think my favorite part of the seminar was when Cruse
talked about “ownership by convenience.” He said if you ask a farmer if it
would be okay to dump a bag of trash on their land, you would expect the farmer
to say no, that is their soil. But if you then ask the farmer, “So when the
soil erodes from your land and pollutes my waterway, then is that still your
soil?” you can expect the farmer to fall
silent. At Little River, we promote teaching concepts such as these with our stream tables.
They demonstrate river morphology phenomena that cannot be easily observed in the field. This is one
of the many advantages to viewing fluvial processes in the compressed temporal
and spatial scales of the Emriver models. In addition to education, the UN also
provides some solutions to what can be done, including improving technologies
and using less water to produce more nutritious food for the world.
As the world population grows, our knowledge of and proper
management practices for natural resources must grow too. It is crucial that we
teach people how to sustainably manage water and soil and how natural systems
such as rivers work in order to increase the life expectancy of our resources.
Several agencies and organizations in Vermont use the Emriver models to teach landowners and policy makers about sound natural resources management.
Labels: emriver, Iowa Water Center, little river research and design, Richard Cruse, river model, stream table