Skip to main content
Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

Where the River Flows: Scientific Reflections on Earth’s Waterways

Evening Program with Book Signing
In conjunction with the Smithsonian Conservation Commons Earth Optimism Summit

Wednesday, April 5, 2017 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1A0013
Yellowstone River, in Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park

Every aspect of our lives ultimately revolves around fresh water. It’s needed to grow food and brew beer, to build cars and computers, to generate hydroelectric power, to go fishing and canoeing, and to maintain the ecological web that sustains the world.

That dependence has been reflected across the millennia in how rivers have defined civilizations, cultures, and cities. From the Amazon to the Nile, the Mississippi to the Yangtze—and countless rivers of all sizes—these waters play an essential and complex role in making human life possible.

Drawing on his new book, Where the River Flows: Scientific Reflections on Earth’s Waterways (Princeton University Press), geophysicist Sean W. Fleming examines how mathematics and physics can reveal the hidden dynamics of rivers, offering insights into the profound interrelationships that they have with landscapes, ecosystems, and societies. He looks at topics including why rivers run where they do; where their waters come from; how the same river can flood one year, and then dry up the next; and even whether rivers have “memories.” He also explores how science can address the threats that watersheds face, including pollution, land-use change, climate change, and deliberate human modifications like damming and water withdrawal.

Fleming has extensive international experience in both operational and research hydrology and holds faculty positions in the geophysical sciences at the University of British Columbia and Oregon State University.

His book is available for signing.

Smithsonian Connections

The Smithsonian Conservation Commons unites scientists from the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biodiversity Institute, Natural History Museum, Tropical Research Institute, National Zoo, and Environmental Research Center—as well as the Smithsonian’s cultural programs and external partnerships—to tackle complex conservation problems on a global scale. 

The Earth Optimism Summit will be a gathering of thought leaders, practitioners, pioneering scientists and researchers, environmentalists, artists, civic leaders, industry participants, media, philanthropists, and other conservation-minded citizens to discuss and share solutions. What are the best minds, boldest experiments, and most innovative community practices telling us about how to preserve biodiversity, protect natural resources, and address climate change? Learn more about Smithsonian Conservation Common’s Earth Optimism summit, April 21-23, 2017.


S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)