Rivers, Watersheds, & the Landscape

IIHR has been involved in river-related research since the lab’s beginnings. Some of the earliest experiments capitalized on IIHR’s experimental channel, which drew water directly from the adjacent dam on the Iowa River.

Today, IIHR is at the forefront of efforts to solve some of society’s most significant Grand Challenges, especially in relation to water and its impacts to the built and natural environment. IIHR researchers are addressing issues related to sustainability in the water, energy and food nexus; improving our understanding and adaptation to climate change; increasing community resilience to natural hazards; and helping equip society with the tools to make informed decisions.

Research Centers and Programs

The centers and programs described below each have a specific core research area, but most IIHR researchers contribute to (and associate with) more than one area. Individual projects in these fields, and the people associated with them, are as fluid and dynamic as the subjects they study! All benefit from access to the IIHR’s extensive facilities, equipment, and instrumentation.

A geologist in a University of Iowa tigerhawk helmet uses a hammer on a rock outcrop

Dating back to 1855, the Iowa Geological Survey (IGS) is IIHR’s oldest program. IGS staff continue to collect, preserve, and interpret geologic and hydrogeologic data in Iowa. The IGS moved from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to the University of Iowa in 2014, and this integration within IIHR supports systems-scale research related to Iowa’s landforms and watersheds.

A Sonic Drivethrough sits on a flooded road

Established in 2009, the Iowa Flood Center (IFC) is the United States’ first and only academic center devoted solely to flood-related research and education. IFC staff and students develop some of the most advanced projects and tools to improve Iowa’s flood preparedness and resilience. Most of these tools can be accessed by the general public via the Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS).

Tom Stoeffler crouches next to a water-quality sensor in a river

Iowa Nutrient Research Center

IIHR is a key partner in the Iowa Nutrient Research Center (INRC), which brings together researchers from Iowa’s three public universities and several government agencies to better understand how nutrients move through the landscape and waterways. A major facet of IIHR’s contributions to the INRC program is to develop, deploy, and maintain the largest water-quality sensor network in the country.

A group large group of people stand in front of a body of water

The Iowa Watershed Approach (IWA) is a statewide project funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It focuses on nine watersheds from the southwest to the northeast corners of the state that had recent Presidential Disaster Declarations related to flooding. IIHR/IFC students and staff are working with many dedicated partners and landowners to reduce flooding and improve community resilience to flooding.

A research pilots a boat and monitors a computer screen

LACMRERS (the Lucille A. Carver Mississippi Riverside Environment Research Station) is the first university-owned research and education center on the Upper Mississippi River. Located just north of Muscatine, Iowa, on the Mississippi River, LACMRERS was designed and equipped to support research and education relating to the Mississippi River and large river systems in general.

Brownish water trickles through an Iowa creek with leafy trees creating dappled sun and shade

Other Relevant Links

Visit the IIHR Engineering Services website for information about Sediment Studies.