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Civil Engineers work together to assist community

University of Missouri Civil Engineers volunteer to repair a bridge at the Jameson Refuge Unit in Arrow Rock, Mo. From left to right: Wyatt Jenkins, Rick Coffman, Cody Wissman, Chelsea Smith and John Bowders.

University of Missouri civil engineering students and staff members of the Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge (BMNFWR) are working on a mutually beneficial project. A bridge at the Jameson Refuge Unit in Arrow Rock, Mo., suffering from years of erosion has opened a window of opportunity providing student’s with real-world experience and the BMNFWR an economic advantage.

The creek, located underneath the bridge, recently experienced increased flow and erosion of soil around supporting piers. According to Park Ranger Tim Haller, the BMNFWR team attempted multiple solutions to combat this problem, but experienced limited success.

Haller began searching for assistance from engineers and was advised to contact John Bowders, the William A. Davidson professor in civil and environmental engineering who recruited students last summer to pursue the project for credit as undergraduate research.

Adam Frankenberg, a civil engineering senior, was one of the student design coordinators.

“It provided some hands-on experience in both geotechnical and project management and a chance to work with people outside of the University. This is what I am interested in as a career,” Frankenberg said of the opportunity to work with BMNFWR.

Frankenberg and Bowders began by performing preliminary surveys of the water shed and the amount of sediment. Then Frankenberg developed a plan to use geotextile material and line the creek with ditch rock. In addition to this, they built a two-foot high weir to catch sediment and build the foundation of soil lost around the piers.

After a few cancelled work-day attempts due to inclement weather, seven civil engineering students joined four refuge staff members on March 5 to move the 40 tons of ditch rock by hand — a work effort lasting about eight hours. Junior Cody Wissman also was appreciated the opportunity to work on the project.

“It was fun to see how using your education can apply. You see how what you learn in the classroom works in the real world,” Wissman said.

Members of the refuge reciprocated the students’ appreciation.

“Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t have a huge budget. We operate on whatever we can get and we weren’t’ prepared to pay for an engineering firm to save the bridge. The students did a great job,” Haller said.

The BMNFWR provided the necessary supplies to assist the students in their design ideas.

“This was the first time we worked with College of Engineering students and we were really impressed. All the volunteers were ambitious, hard workers with positive attitudes and great work ethic. We hope to tap into them again for future assistance,” Haller said.

Bowders is currently working with students to develop erosion control features for a private company and plans to pilot those projects at the Jameson Refuge to further stabilize the site.