Fire destroys Mines research lab but provides new angle for students, scientists

RAPID CITY, S.D. — A fire has destroyed a research site on the School of Mines campus.

Students and researchers spent this past spring constructing a living laboratory to do a long-term study on different erosion mitigation measures.

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School of Mines living laboratory after the fire

The student-designed lab, located on a hill just above campus, features 26 different plot all with different erosion control measures. It’s designed to be around for decades and eventually feature helpful information for the community.

A grass fire burned through much of the site in early August – destroying thousands in materials – but adding a new layer of study, allowing them to look at the impact of fire on soil and erosion control.

Because students took such ownership of the project, they’re getting a major say in how it moves forward.

“We’re gonna work with the students and really give them a say in how we’re going to manage the situation…how we want to learn from the situation…and gather their ideas and really their innovations as to how to move forward,” says Heidi Sieverding, a research scientist in the civil and environmental engineering departments at School of Mines.

Sieverding says they will host a clean-up at the site once school comes back in session next week.

Heidi Sieverding School Of Mines

Heidi Sieverding, research scientist, School of Mines

Officials are still investigating the fire but say it was most likely human–caused.

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