Well, as some of you know, I have been assigned to a research grant for this semester. Originally, the purpose of this assignment was to produce a white paper on Stream Naturalization. The term is nebulous at best, and totally undefinable in reality, so I had my work cut out for me. Well, after a meeting last week with Bruce, it became apparent that it is not my fault the term is a wash, and we decided to shift gears a bit.
Now my research for this semester has taken a more applied, and way cooler turn. A little background is in order….
There is a little perennial (flows all or most of the year) creek in western Champaign called Copper Slough. Funny aside, the creek is about a minutes walk from Jordan and I’s front door. This creek is highly urbanized in town, and as it leaves town, it is the discharge for the Champaign sewage plant, and then it becomes a typical Illinois agricultural stream (read: straight ditch). If you think I’m kidding, click here to see the area in Google Maps.
Anyway, last year a 18-wheeler carrying laundry detergent crashed at a bridge over the creek, dumping tons of the soap in the channel. There was a big fish kill that went all the way past the confluence with the Kaskaskia river. The state levied fines against the company representing the truck, and the company instead wants to perform a ‘stream restoration’ in order to help their PR (Exxon did similar things with the Valdez spill, and called themselves ‘environmentally responsible’) Basically the company’s plan is to spend as little as possible and come out smelling rosy in the end.
The state has chosen Bruce (my advisor) as the expert for their side, and through several meetings it is apparent the the company has not come up with a suitable design for the restoration yet. Bruce has got me set to model a design he wants to implement out there. So I get to look at the design, and determine whether or not it is feasible, and if it will work to increase habitat and improve the environment in this little reach of the creek.
Basically, I will be modeling and checking a stream design. Now it may not be cool to you, but it is incredibly awesome to me. For once, I will be doing something that is based on the theoretical and science, but actually has real applied consequences. If the design works and gets implemented, it is likely that my dissertation will involve managing and monitoring the construction of the project as well as testing and evaluating it for the next few years. This will definitely be interesting, and I hope it works out that way. If not, then I will still have been a part of the situation, and will come away with some valuable skills to apply to whatever I end up doing, so it’s a win-win IMO.
Also, I will be heading to Boston in April to present at the nation meeting of the Association of American Geographers. Last year, as some of you know I went to San Francisco to give a poster at the AGU meeting. I can’t go to that meeting this year (and I should have gone to AAG then), but AAG will be useful. Also, the regional AAG meeting is actually going to be here in Champaign, so I will basically get to go to two conferences for the price of one. Fun times. More on that later I guess.