Our Work and Goals

MNiMORPH is a collaboration between the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and Minnesota State University, Mankato (MNSU) to support and engage a regional network of scientists and scholars studying the surface environment and how – and why – it changes. We approach the science of Earth’s surface as the essential link between climate, land use, geodynamic processes, Earth history, and the environment in which we live.

University of Minnesota

The surface-processes group at the University of Minnesota blends field investigations, theoretical developments, numerical modeling, geospatial analyses, laboratory experiments, and instrumentation design and fabrication to address changes in past and present glaciers and ice sheets, river systems, sea level, and landscapes. Our major current research directions encompass:

  • River-network response to climate and land-use change
  • Interactions between glaciers and ice sheets, terrestrial hydrology, and global sea level
  • Development of open-source geoscientific instrumentation

To accomplish this work, we:

  • Develop and operationalize theory – typically expressed by coupled sets of differential equations and codified into their numerical solutions – to describe how Earth’s surface evolves. We ground our approaches in physics and aim for a level of complexity that is testable in the field.
  • Participate in and organize field work in the deglacial rivers of the Mississippi and Lake Superior basins, as well as in areas farther afield. We combine geochronological, historical, and physics-based approaches to characterizing landscapes and understanding their change, and collect field information towards data–model integration efforts to generalize our predictions of Earth-surface change.
  • Operate a laboratory to develop open-source instrumentation for hydrology and geomorphology.
  • Collaborate to develop global models that provide improved representations of lakes, rivers, groundwater, and their interactions with isostatic adjustment.
  • Support experimental efforts at the Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory.

Minnesota State University, Mankato (MNSU)

Similary, the MNSU members of MNiMORPH blend field investigations, laboratory methods and analysis, geospatial data collection, modeling, and analysis, shallow geophysics (GPR), and soils/sediment analysis to investigate past and present processes operating in glacial, fluvial, aeolian, hillslope, periglacial, and human-environmental systems (e.g. Native America geoarcheology, environmental hazards/issues, natural disasters). Much of this work is done in collaboration with MNSU’s EARTH Systems Laboratory. (https://sbs.mnsu.edu/organizations/earth-systems-research-laboratory/). Our primary research foci are:

  • drainage basin evolution and reorganization; transverse drainage development; establishment of water resources
  • fluvial system response to extrinsic perturbation (climate, tectonics, land-use, base level)
  • outburst flood spillway evolution and associated natural and environmental hazards
  • geoarcheology and human-environment interactions in the Holocene in the upper Mississippi River basin
  • post-glacial paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic change (periglacial and aeolian systems)
  • piedmont geomorphology (alluvial fans and pediments)
  • natural hazards (primary landslides)
  • environmental issues (erosional and land-use impacts on water quality, soil degradation) and natural resources

Everybody matters

Some of us are strong. Some of us are smart. Some of us make others laugh. Some have known Earth science since childhood, while others have recently discovered it. Some of us come up with problems, and some imagine solutions. Whether you haul a pack, write computer code, date samples, analyze remotely-sensed data, couple differential equations, inspire students, and/or build our community, you are welcome among us.