The Missouri River is the longest river in the United States, and a 160-km stretch of the river has been designed as a National Park, the Missouri National Recreational River (MNRR). The University of South Dakota (USD) is located less than 8 km from the MNRR, which provides an exceptional opportunity to study a big river system. Like nearly all large, North American temperate rivers, the Missouri River is regulated, "working river" with multiple stakeholders, potentially conflicting management goals, and river management impacts on native ecosystems. Although the MNRR preserves a remnant of the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems that have historically occurred on the Missouri River, a range of invasive elements have affected and continue to affect the MNRR. In order to maintain the MNRR as a thriving and resilient system, we need to understand the factors affecting the river and develop methodologies to ameliorate their impacts.
In the Sustainable RIVER project, students will work with researchers spanning multiple, diverse disciplines in order to address the question: How do invasive elements in the Missouri River and its uplands affect the sustainability of the river and the humans who depend on it?
The Sustainability Program at USD is well positioned to answer cross-disciplinary questions concerning the Missouri River as USD is home to the Missouri River Institute (MRI). The MRI is a research center charged with developing and promoting research, education, and public awareness of the natural and cultural resources associated with the Missouri River Basin. The MRI has faculty affiliates in departments throughout the University including Sustainability & Environment, Biology, and Anthropology. REU students in the Sustainable RIVER project will gain disciplinary expertise by working with MRI faculty researchers from a range of disciplines investigating different invasive elements and other stressors affecting the MNRR.