Research conference explains how rivers are born and formed


The Ostrander Auditorium last Monday hosted the lecture “How Rivers Are Born and Change: A Paradigm Shift in Earth Science” by Douglas R. Moore Faculty Research, with Earth Science research by Phillip H. Larson .

Larson is a geography professor here at Minnesota State University, Mankato. His lecture attracted many professors, students and members of the community.

The conference began with an introduction by Teri Wallace, Acting Associate Vice President for Research, and a welcome speech by MSU President Edward Inch. Inch also closed the event by announcing the 2023 Moore Prize winner, David Sharlin from the Department of Biological Sciences.

“It’s important that we showcase the great talent happening on this campus,” Inch said in his closing remarks. The annual Moore Research Lecture aims to celebrate the work done by faculty here at MSU Mankato and share it with the public.

Larson’s lecture illustrated his research to date, which focuses on the formation and evolution of rivers in the southwestern United States.

“This work lasted about twelve years, since I was a doctoral student. student at Arizona State University. I have always loved the Southwest of the United States. Arizona State was one of my dream schools. When I arrived there, my teacher encouraged me to study the rivers in this part of the world. I fell in love with these landscapes, rivers and landscapes. Trying to understand how rivers are what they are and why they look like that was really intriguing,” Larson said.

Much of Larson’s research was aimed at correcting the concept of river piracy, which explains how rivers around the world may have formed or changed course over time.

“If you spend enough time studying the landscapes, you start to have an intuition of how they work and what is going on. It became apparent to me that there was a problem there,” Larson said. “I’ve spoken to others doing similar work who also recognize this issue.”

This idea led him to take a closer look at systems.

“Ultimately, this led to the suggestion that maybe we need to rethink how we think about river systems. There are other ways of thinking about these processes and how landscapes with rivers came about. I think we need a paradigm shift and get out of the dogma of how we think rivers evolve,” Larson added.

Ben Garadz, a junior at MSU, is an adviser to Larson who was present. “I think I learned a lot about river basins.”

Jayda Rowen, Jr., also has Larson as an advisor: “I’m taking a class called natural disasters, and the professor talked about how rivers work and floods. He talked about this seminar, and I thought it was interesting, so I attended.

As he continues his study of rivers and the landscape around them, Larson plans to focus on the rivers of the Upper Midwest region.

Write to Alexandra Tostrud at


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