Gigi Richards collecting river data
Professor of Geology Gigi Richards, PhD, collecting data on the Colorado River.


Rocky Waters with Gigi Richards

What does owning a grocery store, leading horseback rides and running a civil engineering business all have in common? Truthfully, not much, other than they are a few of the many positions Gigi Richards, PhD, held before coming to teach Physical and Environmental Science here at Colorado Mesa University. Richards now focuses on studying rivers and modern water issues. She strives to educate young professionals and develop their understanding of these issues while encouraging them to work towards positive solutions.

Richards grew up in New Orleans on the Mississippi river delta, but admittedly did not fall in love with rivers until after earning her bachelors at MIT when she moved to Montezuma in Summit County, Colorado. Richards’ original plan was to become a geologist, but her MIT advisor was in civil engineering studying sediment transport, and when she realized she could study both rocks and water she was sold.

Richards went on to study the Rio Grande and Colorado rivers and her work has earned her a repeated invitation to present at the International Conference on the Status and Future of the Worlds Large Rivers. This year Richards will attend the conference in India and present her continued study of the Colorado River regarding river flow and sediment transport.

Richards global travels have allowed her to visit the Amazon River in Brazil, of which she said, “It was just mind boggling to see how big of a river it is.” She has also visited the Danube River in Austria and will be visiting the Ganges River while in India. “In all of my classes I try to incorporate case studies from around the world,” Richards said, “I try to infuse my classes with real world applications.”

By taking what she learns while traveling, she gives her students global perspectives and encourages them to use actual data from these rivers for their projects. She explained that she continually brings her lessons back to the "why do I care?" question, and "what does this mean to me?” in order for her students to understand how these real problems and scientific studies affect them personally.

Additionally, Richards is the director of the Hutchins Water Center at CMU, which opened in 2011. Having won a grant with Metro State University (MSU), the water center is studying water use, attitudes and behaviors at CMU, MSU and CU Boulder. Richards said, “The next phase will be to see if we can do anything to encourage more efficient water use and conservative water use [on campus].”

Having combined her diverse educational background and travel experiences, Richards has found a way to live out her natural curiosity and pass it on to her students each day.

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