Illinois schools compare state, Brazilian rivers

The University of Illinois-Springfield has been awarded a $25,000 grant with which students will conduct comparative analyses of the Illinois River and Parana River in Brazil.

The university was one of eight U.S. institutions whose proposed projects won innovation grants through the “100,000 Strong in the Americas” program, a White-House-sponsored public-private educational initiative that encourages collaboration between students from North, Central and South America.

This year’s competition was funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation and promotes study-abroad environmental research on water resource issues. After several months of preparation, a group of about nine UIS students and six faculty members will travel to Brazil, where they will meet their counterparts from the Universidade Estadual de Maringa, located in the southern portion of the country.

Dr. Keenan Dungey, a UIS associate professor of chemistry and lead author of the grant application, said the goal of the Illinois contingent will be to observe the Parana’s ecosystem and, based on those findings, develop solutions to improve the Illinois River’s ecosystem, which has long been impacted by human activity. “What we’re going to do is work with scientists there on studying the Parana River and compare those results with studies being done on the Illinois River,” Dungey said. “There’s a lot of effort here in Illinois to try to restore the river and its floodplain to a more natural state, or a more productive ecosystem.”

Dungey said his team chose to study the Parana River because there simply weren’t any similarly-pristine river systems in the U.S. with which to compare the Illinois. “I would say, it would be hard to find the same magnitude river that hasn’t been impacted by humans,” he said.

Dungey said that while this year’s program will include only nine UIS students, it’s anticipated the research initiative will survive, grow and eventually draw in many more students in Illinois, as well as abroad.

–Illinois News Network

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