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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Water research facility coming to campus

Totus Tuus Keely
NIU’s Human Resource Center and the DeKalb Water Tower sit brandished with NIU’s logo. The U.S. Geological Survey will relocate to the western part of campus from their current Peace Road location by the end of the semester. (Totus Tuus Keely | Northern Star)

DeKALB – A new facility dedicated to joint water research efforts between Northern Illinois University and the United States Geological Survey is bringing a river of opportunity for students. 

The Central Midwest Water Science Center of the USGS is moving its Peace Road location in DeKalb to the former NIU Department of Information Technology print shop in April.  

Renovations to the print shop are estimated to cost $500,000 and are already underway. The USGS is funding the cost by grant reimbursement to the university. 

The CMWSC engages in scientific research of water quality, water use and availability, including ecosystem and extreme event monitoring. The new cooperative arrangement will support a transdisciplinary earth sciences research program between NIU students, faculty and the USGS. 

“NIU and USGS have a common interest in a joint program of earth sciences research, education and outreach,” Director of Innovation at NIU Karinne Bredberg said. “Although the Department of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment will be a large focus area with USGS, other departments at NIU such as environmental studies; chemistry; communication; mathematics; statistics; biology; computer science and physics will also have the opportunity to collaborate.” 

The collaboration aligns with the goals of the Northern Illinois Center for Community Sustainability — a $23 million facility whose funding was approved last year by the state. Construction of the research facility is expected to begin in 2025 and will be located a short distance from the new USGS office.  

The joint research will address emerging contaminants found in groundwater and surface water, numerical modeling of those water systems, environmental change, food systems and other areas of water resource management. 

Examples of joint efforts could include the collaborative instruction of courses, specifically field courses where students can be on-site at select USGS fields for hands-on experiences, according to Bredberg. 

“NIU has received numerous sponsored awards from the USGS,” Bredberg said. “Some examples of this work include geologic mapping of areas in Illinois and seismic monitoring of deployment of Asian carp in various Chicago-land waterways.” 

The partnership also means possible student internships and employment opportunities for NIU graduates, according to Bredberg. 

Melissa Lenczewski is a professor of hydrogeology in the Department of Earth, Atmosphere and the Environment and former director of NIU’s Institute for the Study of Environment Sustainability and Energy. Lenczewski says the facility’s research findings will aid more than just the environment. 

“NIU is known for its water research, and ESE helped lay the foundation for the NICCS,” Lenczewski said. “Not only would USGS collaborations involve water and pollution, but they would also touch on social justice as well. This collaboration could be a big focal point for NICCS.”

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