The Beaver: Local Architect and Engineer Makes a Splash in Indianapolis

The Indianapolis children, students, and faculty who help maintain and restore Marian University‘s EcoLab have a little help from the engineers of the natural world. Though the wetlands that are a part of the EcoLab have been around downtown Indianapolis for about 100 years, they’ve recently been part of an educational initiative designed to teach students (including students at Indianapolis high schools as well as graduate students at the university) about ecology, preservation, and environmental restoration. But the work at the wetlands isn’t done entirely by humankind. No, beavers have long been assisting Marian University in keeping its EcoLab clean and running. These flat tailed, buck toothed builders can direct the flow of waters, create artificial ponds, and construct elegant dams, all to make a home for themselves and their young. Indianapolis residents can get a first hand glimpse at the work of these eager beavers when they attend The Beaver: Local Architect and Engineer Demonstration at the Indiana State Museum on Friday, April 15, 2011.

Beavers are the second largest rodent species in the world, second only to the massive capybara of South America. Though the animals once numbered around 60 million in the United States, their numbers have steadily dwindled over the decades: as of 1988, roughly 6 to 12 million beavers were left. This is partly due to trapping for commercial reasons, but it also has to do with the public perception of the beaver. The animals, thanks to their prowess at construction, routinely demolish parts of forests that humans would like to use, dam up rivers that shouldn’t be dammed, and generally make themselves an annoyance. The beavers aren’t trying to get our goat; it’s simply how they live. Actually, far from damaging the environments they frequent, beavers can improve them. Beaver ponds often evolve into full fledged wetlands, which use natural processes to remove sediment, contaminants, and pollutants from the water, creating cleaner drinking water for all living things.

Video of a David Attenborough narrated nature documentary concerning beavers, which are also the focus of The Beaver: Local Architect and Engineer at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis


The Marian University EcoLab has been a part of the Indianapolis education system for the past 100 years, since its inception by landscape architect Jans Jensen. Since then, the environmental restoration of the park has been up to Marian University students, Indianapolis people, students at Indianapolis public schools, and, of course, the beavers. Participants in The Beaver: Local Architect and Engineer Demonstration at the Indiana State Museum will have the chance to virtually explore the 55 acres of the EcoLab located near downtown Indianapolis, where they’ll see the myriad signs of the beavers hard at work. Dams, fallen trees, lodges, canals, ponds, and more are signs of the handiwork of these flat tailed rodents, all of which help the wetlands maintain their chemical and natural balance.

By the time you leave The Beaver: Local Architect and Engineer Demonstration at the Indiana State Museum, you’ll have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the eager beaver. You’ll have the chance to feel their fur, check out the unique shape of their skull (complete with their wood obliterating buck teeth), identify their tracks, and even become intimately acquainted with their scat, something your kids might think is cooler than you do. Also, check out a heart warming video of a beaver rescue by a high sided pool in the EcoLab. By the end of your time at The Beaver: Local Architect and Engineer Demonstration, you’ll be ready to challenge the Giant Beaver Wheel, which will test your knowledge of these chubby rodents.

Visitors to the Indiana State Museum can check out The Beaver: Local Architect and Engineer Demonstration on Friday, April 15, 2011, from 10:00 p.m. to noon. While you’re at the Indianapolis museum, you can be an extra eager beaver and learn more about these smart builders at the Beaver Fever gallery, where you can explore the history of the beaver (including his prehistoric ancestors) and see artifacts made from beaver materials. This Indianapolis event is absolutely free for members and free with museum admission for non-members (Indiana State Museum admission is $7 for adults, $6.50 for seniors, and $4 for children ages 3-12). If you think the beaver is just a cheesy Mel Gibson movie, come on down to the Indiana State Museum on Friday, April 15, 2011 for The Beaver: Local Architect and Engineer Demonstration.

The Beaver: Local Architect and Engineer Demonstration
Friday, April 15, 2011 from 10:00 a.m. to Noon
Tickets: FREE for members/FREE with museum admission for non-members
Event Homepage

Indiana State Museum
650 W Washington St
Indianapolis, IN 46204

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