By Jason Beverlin
Deputy Director of the Illinois River Program
September 2008 — Steps from my office door at Emiquon is an emerging academic hothouse. The Emiquon Field Station, built by the University of Illinois at Springfield just this year, is already a vibrant research hub. Led by UIS professor Dr. Mike Lemke, the facility is making it possible for budding scientists and their teachers to look deeply into Emiquon and the surrounding natural areas as they search for answers to many important questions about the levels of this ecosystem. They wonder why Bass are growing more rapidly here than in the neighboring Illinois River. What, they ask, are the economic tradeoffs between land drained for agricultural production and the naturally abundant floodplains? How will the Emiquon restoration affect people today and in the future?
In the Field Station laboratories, students peer through microscopes, scrutinizing tiny organisms moving across wetland water samples. Perhaps these abundant larvae help fortify the fish population, they theorize. Each day brings them closer to their answers. It is exciting to work through the many layers of Emiquon with the students when I can. But with each answer, new questions spring forth, convincing me that the culture of growth and progress here is itself alive and well on every level.