New Missouri River Institute established Two of America's most famous explorers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, navigated the Missouri River, landing and hiking for several miles near what is now the city of Vermillion during late summer, 1804.
Now, nearly two centuries later, The University of South Dakota has created the Missouri River Institute (MSI), which will advance and promote contemporary research, education and outreach in the Missouri River basin, according to an announcement by USD President James W. Abbott.
USD Biology Professor Bruce A. Barton and Professor of Anthropology Brian L. Molyneaux have been named co-directors of the institute, under the direction of Dean of Research and Graduated Studies Royce Engstrom.
"We're very excited about the possibilities. The Missouri River Institute will incorporate the natural and environmental history of the Missouri River, as well as the cultures that have thrived along this waterway and its ecosystem for at least 12,000 years," said Barton.
According to Molyneaux, the primary goal of the institute is to establish and promote scholarly research opportunities that focus on the natural and cultural features of the Missouri River Basin. "Additional goals will include developing an outreach program centered on the basin's resources for the academic community and the public, supporting and promoting the ethnic heritage of the original native inhabitants and later settlers within the basin and serving as a primary informational resource for past and present activities occurring within the basin," said Molyneaux, who is also director of the USD Archaeology Laboratory. Other goals include maintaining involvement in activities leading up to and during the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial in 2004 and securing and sustaining external funding for the Institute.
President Abbott noted the MRI is a significant development for the University. "We hope to become a clearing house for information on the entire Missouri River basin. Our unique proximity to the river should encourage researchers and students to make USD their educational home," said Abbott.
South Dakota U.S. Senator Tim Johnson, a Vermillion native, strongly supports the initiative.
"The creation of the Missouri River Institute is a timely and excellent idea and I congratulate USD for its vision in this effort," he said. "The institute will be an important center of scholarship and it dove-tails with congressional efforts to preserve Spirit Mound and otherwise provide additional resources for the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial."
A variety of short and long term MRI specific objectives include a high-profile special lecture series for presentation to the university community during the current academic year.