Elkhorn River Research Station

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Elkhorn River Research Station
The Elkhorn River Research Station could be mistaken for a rusting vestige of the steamboat days, left to disintegrate on the riverbank about 30 miles west of Omaha, like so many other industrial cast-offs. Clad in overlapping, Cor-Ten steel panels, with an asymmetrical roof, the station looks like the prow of a ship, or, from afar, like a preserved slice of a covered bridge. But this minuscule, 70-square-foot, wood-frame “probe,” as architect Randy Brown calls it, has a very modern function. It houses specimen tanks, water-testing equipment, and room for a few researchers to work. You may have heard the frightening stories in the last decade: male fish and frogs exhibiting female traits because of water contamination caused by humans. Dr. Alan Kolok, an aquatic toxicologist at the University of Nebraska, focuses his research on such problems, studying “emerging contaminants”—molecules from birth-control pills, pesticides, fertilizer, and household-cleaning supplies, to name just some, that make their way into the water system and have disturbing effects on animals.

This work has taken Kolok all over Nebraska, searching for the signs and concentration of these toxins in the state's seven rivers. More recently, he decided to try to get the community to help him collect data. He discovered that if you give a Boy Scout troop or Kiwanis Club the simple tools needed to test water, they'll happily participate. “I'm really interested in community engagement and how we can empower citizens to be involved,” says Kolok. “And what better way to do it than a distinctive piece of architecture?”

Kolok and his team approached the Omaha-based Brown to design a pilot research station, the first of seven that are planned, one for each river. As a center for the public and the university, and a masthead for Kolok, the compact form serves as branding. “It's the segue—the entry point—into this fairly sophisticated educational outreach system we're developing,” says Kolok. Some of the more remote stations will have small living accommodations.

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  • Nadezhda Nikolova
    Nadezhda Nikolova updated, updated a digital reference, added a digital reference, removed a media, updated 10 media and uploaded 11 media
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    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com