Working Alongside Nature’s Chief Engineer

Max Rock, “Working Alongside Nature’s Chief Engineer”
Mentor: Changshan Wu, Geography

The Milwaukee Riverkeeper, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District (MMSD), and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) are investigating a watershed-scale restoration. The project focuses on the North American Beaver, Castor canadensis, to achieve a range of watershed restoration goals. University researchers developed a modeling framework to assess the potential impacts of beaver constructed dams on the hydrological processes in the Milwaukee River watershed. The framework includes a GIS-based model to assess the potentials of beaver re-establishments in the watershed, and a hydrological model to evaluate impacts of beaver dams on the hydrograph as well as surface and groundwater storage. After the model has been completed, Milwaukee Riverkeeper will conduct field study visits to 10 of the most promising sites. Based on those field visits, Riverkeeper will create a summary report with a habitat overview. Specific report details will be given on the those sites identified as having the best estimated metrics for potential flood mitigation and beaver habitat. This work is on the forefront of low tech ecological restoration research. Modeling framework and research of this extent will aid in suppressing the effects of a changing climate, such as flood mitigation during heavy rainfall, water purification through the natural construction of wetlands, and water retention and dispersal during periods of drought and heavy fire activity.


  1. Great presentation, thank you for sharing! I think we would all be delighted to see beavers arrving back to Milwaukee riversides.

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