The River Basins Research Initiative (RBRI) began in 1996 with two students studying a 3 km2 watershed, and has grown to become an interdisciplinary study of the Broad and Saluda River Basins that, since 1999, has involved more than 170 student participants. The program has been funded by grants from NSF, EPA, NASA, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the Associated Colleges of the South, the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, the Saluda-Reedy Watershed Consortium, the Mellon Foundation, and Furman University . The vast majority of the funds have been used for undergraduate student stipends and housing costs. We have ongoing collaborations with the Greenville County Stormwater Division, the Nature Conservancy, Upstate Forever!, and Vassar and Middlebury Colleges .
The long-term goal of this research program is the systematic characterization of both rural and urban watersheds to develop an understanding of the extent of human impact, particularly urbanization, on river systems in the Blue Ridge and Piedmont Provinces of South Carolina . Our research broadly encompasses studies of land cover change and the impact of change on stream hydrology, biogeochemistry, biodiversity, and geomorphology. The Greenville-Spartanburg metropolitan area, one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country, is located in the headwaters of the study area. Over the past decade, we have sampled over 700 localities in the Saluda, Enoree and Tyger River basins .
Our summer research program is focused on developing students as scientists. Our three primary scientific and educational objectives associated with the River Basins Research Initiative ( RBRI ) NSF-REU site. First, we introduce and immerse each REU participant into a valid research endeavor that will culminate in developing new scientific knowledge . Second, we will foster the progression of each participant from a dependent assistant to an independent scientific colleague. Third, we intend for each participant to disseminate the results of their original research in the form of presentations at regional and national scientific meetings and, when possible, as published journal articles. Nearly all of the more than 175 student participants in our program have presented the results of their research at regional and national scientific meetings such as the southeastern sectional meeting and national meeting of the Geological Society of America and the annual meeting of the Association of Southeastern Biologists.