Mississippi River flooding takes class outside at Western

MOLINE, Illinois-- Stepping outside the Western Illinois University campus in Moline, students, professors and visitors are greeted by feet of floodwater. It's been encroaching on the riverfront campus for weeks.

But some professors are finding a silver lining in the historic flooding.

Director of the Institute for Environmental Studies Roger Viadero has been taking his students outside to get their feet wet.

"(When) people think about Ph.D., they think about lab work and stuff like that, but since we're environmental scientists, we do a lot of our work out here," he says standing along the water's edge.

His students have traded books for rain boots. And they head a few feet into the floodwater to conduct research.

"So with surface flooding like this, you notice it picks up a lot of debris, and there's a lot of sentiment coming up on the grass," doctoral candidate Victoria Livingston explains. "So if we know how fast the water is moving, we know what stuff it's capable of moving."

Students aren't only getting real-world experience. Their research could have a real-world impact.

"We can see if the water retention or the water management is sufficient for a type of flood like this," environmental studies student Jason Hunt says.

The data will eventually be published online for anyone to access and use.

As for the students' outdoor classroom, it's not expected to go anywhere soon. The water isn't receding quickly and could even rise later this week.


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