Research lecture shares how rivers are born and form

Ostrander Auditorium hosted the ‘How Rivers are Born and Evolve: A Paradigm Shift in Earth Science’ lecture by Douglas R. Moore Faculty Research last Monday featuring earth science research by Phillip H. Larson.

Larson is a professor of geography here at Minnesota State University, Mankato. His Lecture attracted many faculty, students, and community members. 

The lecture began with an introduction from Teri Wallace, the Interim Associate Vice President for Research, and a welcome address from MSU President Edward Inch. Inch also closed the event by announcing the 2023 Moore award recipient, David Sharlin of the department of biological sciences. 

“It’s important that we showcase the great talents that are going on, on this campus,” Inch said in his closing speech. The annual Moore research lecture aims to celebrate the work being done by faculty here at MSU Mankato, and share it with the public. 

Larson’s lecture illustrated his research to date, which centers on the formation and evolution of rivers in the southwest United States. 

“This work has gone on for twelve years or so, since I was a Ph.D. student at Arizona State University. I’d always loved the southwestern United States. Arizona State was one of my dream schools. When I got out there, my professor encouraged me to study rivers in that part of the world. I fell in love with those landscapes, the rivers, and the scenery. Trying to understand how the rivers are the way they are and why they look the way they do was really intriguing,” Larson said. 

Much of Larson’s research aimed to correct the concept of stream piracy, which explains how rivers across the world may have formed or changed course over time. 

“If you spend enough time studying landscapes you start to get an intuition for how they work, and what’s happening. It became obvious to me that there was a problem there,” Larson said. “I talked to other people doing similar work who were also recognizing this problem.” 

This idea directed him to take a closer look at the systems.

“Ultimately, it led to suggesting that maybe we need to rethink how we think about river systems. There are other ways to think about these processes and how landscapes with rivers in them came to be. I think we need a paradigm shift, and to get out of the dogma of how we think rivers evolve,” Larson added.

Ben Garadz, a junior at MSU, is an advisee of Larson’s who was in attendance. “I think I learned a good amount about the river basins.” 

Jayda Rowen, junior, also has Larson as an advisor, “I’m taking a class called natural disasters, and the professor talked about how rivers and flooding works. He mentioned this seminar, and I thought it was interesting so I attended.” 

As he continues his study on rivers and the landscape around them, Larson plans to shift his focus to rivers of the upper midwest region.

Write to Alexandra Tostrud at Alexandra.Tostrud@mnsu.edu

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