What’s in the Mississippi? A lot more than you ever imagined


Looking from the Science Museum's deck the Mississippi River looks like one simple bed of water.

Water – it’s one of our planet’s simplest chemical compounds with two hydrogen atoms bonded to an oxygen atom.

It takes a lot of water to fill up the Mississippi River. Plenty of other rivers, streams and watersheds contribute more water along the way to make it the great river that it is.

But it’s not just water filling up those riverbanks. Of course there are fish and plants in the water. But beyond what our human eye can see, there are millions of other tiny organisms floating along, all having important impacts on life in the Mississippi’s waters.

What exactly is going on in that water? That’s the study goal of the Minnesota Mississippi Metagenome Project (M3P for short) based out of the University of Minnesota’s College of Biological Sciences.

Using new technologies to tease apart the DNA of all those microorganisms in the river’s waters, researchers hope to paint a more vivid picture of what’s in the river’s water and how it’s changing life there. Click through these pages to learn more about how this all works.

You can also learn more about the M3P project here at its website.