University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

River Life, a program at the University of Minnesota, uses social media, a digital atlas, and case study reports to develop and share knowledge on the science and professional practices that create inclusive, sustainable rivers. We discuss science and planning, engagement and inclusion, sustainability and river issues in a spatial, thoughtful, and timely manner. Visit our website for more information.

What Do We Do?

The University of Minnesota is a world-class comprehensive teaching and research university located in a National Park on one of the great rivers of the world.  River Life takes strategic advantage of that fact by gathering and disseminating information concerning river sustainability and inclusive planning through digital media platforms.

The Next Generation

We feel that the next generation of river and community leaders—our present students—are going to need to have expertise in the natural sciences, in the “doing” practices such as engineering, policy, and design, and will need to be able to engage the public effectively.  Those three specialties—science, planning, and engagement—form the foundation for our teaching and learning work.  We are interdisciplinary, problem-oriented, and collaborative, engaging community partners and campus leaders from across the University.

River Life: At a Glance

Rivers represent perhaps the most complex biological and physical systems in the world. Yet our great rivers are threatened: water quality and quantity both are at peril from overuse, from competing uses, and from a generalized failure to recognize how valuable and imperiled the resource really is.

How Can You Participate?

River Life is a broadly inclusive program, open to students from any major, faculty from a host of disciplines, and community partners who are focused on river sustainability and inclusive planning.


Students can participate through recreational or service projects, can apply for internships with community partners, or a select few may choose a career path that leads to graduate study, a job in the field, or both.


Faculty research, teaching, and engagement programs become “river-centric” to the degree that they take up questions of how knowledge and teaching are applied in the community, or how interdisciplinary investigation addresses complex river and landscape problems.

Community Partners

Community partners are key to the success of the entire program.   They provide case studies for research, suggest appropriate topics for internship, thesis, or service learning questions, hire students in seasonal positions, and mentor the “next generation” of river leaders.

Recent Updates

Download the classic Bill Morrish Mississippi River Newsletters on our Resources page. August 22, 2012

River Life joins UMN’s IAS August 16, 2012

Asian carp update! April 25, 2012

Video!  See “Mapping the Mississippi” from Pat Nunnally and Mary deLaittre’s recent presentation at the Institute for Advanced Study‘s Thursdays at Four series. April 19, 2012

River Atlas update! A Living Topography: Stories from Lake Superior by visual artist Anna Metcalfe. March 30, 2012