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You are here: Home News & Events Scientists Uncover Secret In Centuries-Old Mud, Drawing A New Way To Save Polluted Rivers

Scientists Uncover Secret In Centuries-Old Mud, Drawing A New Way To Save Polluted Rivers

A pair of east coast scientists met and fell in love over an interest in researching mud, years before producing a paper that would change how the Eastern United States conducts river restoration.
Scientists Uncover Secret In Centuries-Old Mud, Drawing A New Way To Save Polluted Rivers

Big Spring Run immediately after restoration. Credit: Big Spring Run Project

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Though controversial among mud experts, their work has created flourishing stream and river ecosystems that resemble their pre-colonial states of low-banked, ecologically diverse, marshy waterways: a big change from the high-banked meandering streams covered in reeds that we often see today.

Dorothy Merritts and Robert Walter, two scientists who started working together as peers, ended up producing a ‘mud-breaking’ research paper as husband and wife.

Their work showed that almost all streams and rivers in the Eastern United States are actually victims of colonial-era tampering that buried resilient and complex river ecosystems under yards of silt.

While this discovery may seem like the lifework of eccentric scientific specialists, to be debated in the obscurest of journals and classrooms, the real-world implications could be enormous for riverine construction and flood insurance firms.

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