September 23, 2011

‘Day on the River’ promises fun, learning

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Mississippi River is a constant companion of Southern Illinois residents.  Southern Illinois University Carbondale researchers, however, are hoping to expand people’s knowledge of this mighty force of nature with a day of fun and learning.

A Day on the River is a joint effort among SIUC, the Missouri Department of Conservation and the American Land Conservancy.  The event is set for 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1.  There are two locations: The SIUC Middle Mississippi River Wetland Field Station in East Cape Girardeau and the Red Star Access in downtown Cape Girardeau.

At the field station, participants will have the opportunity to take guided hikes aimed at spotting and identifying various birds that make the river and wetlands their home. They also will experience river model demonstrations, see wetland invertebrates and learn about floodplain and wetland conservation techniques.

Visitors at the Red Star Access will get boat rides, fish the river and see live animals.  Organizers also plan crafts for children.

Matt Whiles, professor of zoology at SIUC, said participants will learn about large river ecology, conservation and management and some of the associated resources available to the general public.

“There will be displays and activities on fish, bird and insect communities that inhabit the river and its floodplain, as well as information about some of the agencies involved in the conservation and management of this tremendous resource,” Whiles said.

The Middle Mississippi River Wetland Field Station plays an important role in many types of research at SIUC, Whiles said, making it an ideal place to host the event.

“Field stations and similar resources enhance research programs and attract interest from beyond the local area,” While said.  “This is a relatively new station, and we already have researchers from other regions using the facility and in doing so, contributing to the research culture at SIUC.”

Such field stations serve as regional resources for research and education on large river-floodplain ecosystems, Whiles said.  Researchers and students study floodplain communities, including amphibians, rodents, and bats, for example.  They also look at natural history, management of large river fishes and educational programs on floodplain wetland ecology.

“Through development of the station, we have forged strong collaborations with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Forest Service, Missouri Department of Conservation, American Land Conservancy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other key players in research and management along the Mississippi River,” Whiles said.

All ages are welcome to attend the event, which is free and open to the public.  For more information, call 573/290-5218.