Research in ‘our own backyard’
I recently had the opportunity to speak to the Red River Regional Council (one of eight regional planning councils in North Dakota) about how UND’s research and scholarly work relate to our state. I think many in the audience were surprised at how much goes on here at UND that is directly related to North Dakota and its people. Of course, much of our work also has impact beyond our borders (as it should), but it’s only natural that we work on things that are in our own backyard.
Those things in our backyard range from the booming oil industry in western North Dakota to the insidious chronic flooding of Devils Lake and the surrounding area. We seek to understand not just the science that explains such things but also their impact on the people. Our backyard also includes remnants of native prairie. Our prairie environment is an integral part of our history, and it’s important today in ways we often overlook — our $4.9 billion-a-year tourism industry includes many hunters and birdwatchers whose interests depend on the health of our open lands and the prairie pothole system. Our Biology Department has a growing cadre of faculty whose work focuses on understanding our prairie ecosystem and how to keep it healthy.
In this issue we also present contemporary reflections on farm life in North Dakota through the words of a talented North Dakota poet. Even though I grew up as a town kid in Grand Forks, I had numerous relatives who were involved in farming, and these poems resonated with me as “real” when I first heard them read by their author. Seek out her poems — I think you will like them, too.
A year ago, we finished our strategic plan for research, creative, and scholarly activity at UND. That plan, titled Aiming Over the Horizon: The Great Plains and Beyond, reflects a real sense of place, with specific references to North Dakota’s landscape, geography, history, rural life, and our American Indian population. This issue of UND Discovery illuminates the many ways that the work of the University’s faculty embodies the goals laid out in that plan.
Phyllis E. Johnson
Vice President for Research and Economic Development