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Course Name

History of the Environment


Dr. Shawn Bailey


In fall 2022, IMSA’s Mod 8 History of the Environment class wrote a book. Specifically and collaboratively, we wrote a bioregional history of the Fox River watershed. Although there are several waterways in the Midwest with the same name, our Fox River originates near Colgate, Wisconsin, northwest of the city of Milwaukee. From its headwaters, the Fox runs due south and then southwest more than 200 miles, before reaching its confluence with the Illinois River near Ottawa. This includes the section flowing two-miles due east of IMSA’s campus, through the city of Aurora. All told, the entire Fox River watershed drains almost 2,700 square miles of Wisconsin and Illinois.

As part of this project, students had the opportunity to design a historical research project based on their own interests. Topics ranged from the geological impacts of the Pleistocene Epoch, which ended 13,000 years or so ago, through nineteenth century industrial concerns and twentieth century recreation, to modern issues such as pollution, dam removal proposals, and legal rights for nature. Students also helped with the editing process and book construction, including original cover art and design, author bios, and the collection of appropriate maps and photographs. Four historians—experts in the field of environmental history—read our book and provided review blurbs for the back cover.

This bioregional history of the Fox is both unique and incomplete. To date, this is the first academic history of this particular Fox River, making it a valuable contribution to the environmental history of the United States. There is, however, a lot more history to discover along the Fox River. The second edition is planned for fall 2023!

Publication Date

Fall 2022


History | Other History


Dr. Jackie G. VanZahms is the pen name for the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy’s Fall 2022 Mod 8 History of the Environment class. This is their first book.

Following the Current: A Bioregional History of the Fox River from the Pleistocene to the Present

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