2015 Summer — River Group Research and Work

The 2015 Summer field work and research season was a busy time for University of Oregon’s River Group members.


Mark Fonstad finished work on a special issue of Geomorphology in honor of Will Graf with co-editor Bruce Rhoads. He also began work on a new Annals special issue on the topic of “Mountains”, and also continued his standard environmental science editor activities for the Annals. Mark took some time off during the summer and hiked in the magnificent Wallowa Mountains and their surrounding


DSCN0892 Christina and Christina at Mt Hood

Christina Shintani conducted field work on the Salmon River, Oregon, a tributary of the Sandy River located  west of Mt. Hood. She is studying a reach of the river where a log jam and an emulated landslide were placed in the channel in order to improve fish habitat. Christina took pictures and video with a UAV, and collected ground control points and cross-section data with a rtk-GPS. She will use this data to compare remote sensing techniques in deriving bathymetry in critical fish habitat for her Master’s thesis research.



Pollyanna Lind spent her summer working as a staff Geomorphologist for Inter-Fluve, Inc. (IFI), a river and wetland restoration company located in Hood River, OR.  Her favorite summer projects with IFI include a geomorphic and hydrologic assessment of Starvation Flats located on the eastern flanks of Mount Adams; and assisting with construction oversight of a section of new salmon-channel on the Middle Fork John Day River. In her spare time this summer Pollyanna continued analyzing and processing her dissertation data.


Snowys Devin1

Before beginning his trek to the Pacific Northwest, Devin Lea helped the fluvial remote sensing team at the University of Wyoming collect data on alpine lakes in the Snowy Range near Laramie, WY. Measurements such as depth, water surface elevation, spectral reflectance, bottom composition, and water column optical properties will be combined with image data from satellite images to understand volume change of lakes throughout the summer and better constrain the overall water budget of the Snowy Range. Devin also submitted a manuscript to Geomorphology with his Master’s advisor (Carl Legleiter) on a manuscript that calculates spatially variable error from image registration to assess significant lateral channel changes in an image time series. Devin’s move/roadtrip from Wyoming to Oregon landed him at UO this summer in time to work with Pat McDowell and other students on the Middle Fork John Day River in August, and he is excited to begin his own work here at UO this fall!


IMG_9330 - Copy IMG_9335 - Copy

After passing his comprehensive exams for doctoral candidacy, Matthew Goslin conducted field work in the Middle Fork John Day to measure erosion pins and to survey retreating river banktops.  He is nearing the endgame of his dissertation field research about the effects of torrent sedge on channel morphology.


Long Tom Side Channel ADCP on Long Tom

Christina Appleby spent her summer collecting data on the Long Tom River near Monroe, Oregon. She used an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler and RTK GPS to record bathymetry in the main stem and historic meander bends on the lower Long Tom. This bathymetry data will be combined with LiDAR data to create a continuous digital elevation model that can be used for 2D hydraulic modeling. The hydraulic model will be used to determine how changes in side channel connections will change area of flood inundation.

Christina is grateful for the help she received in the field from UO’s Christina Shintani, Aaron Zettler-Mann, and Pat McDowell, as well as OIT’s Tyler Dearman.


DP_Pac DP_Pac2

This summer brought great news for Denielle Perry and the citizens of Costa Rica and defenders of the Rio Pacuare. The documentary that Denielle produced & directed, Troubled Waters: Costa Rica’s Rio Pacuare, influenced a presidential policy decreeing 25 years of no large dams on the Pacuare and Savegre Rivers in Costa Rica. While she couldn’t be present at the event,  Denielle was interviewed by reporters.

Watch the documentary here:  Troubled Waters


A NEW PERSPECTIVE OF THE WILLAMETTE RIVER: How Science Helps with Clean Water and Flood Protection

In March 2015 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) began working with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the University of Oregon (UO) to test new remote sensing technology that can measure streamflow conditions from space. However, before the technology can be deployed, it must first be checked with real-time water surface measurements. This “calibration” check is done by attaching the sensor to an airplane and flying it over the Willamette River during different times of the year. While the plane was airborne, scientists boated the Willamette River measuring the corresponding water level. Additional instruments were also deployed to further compare the plane measurements to the actual water surface. This technology is called SWOT (Surface Water Ocean Topography) and the satellite will be ready for launch in 2020.


NASA’s SWOT and AirSWOT Missions
The SWOT mission will help hydrologists gain a better understanding of the Earth’s water resources by using radar technology to take repeated, high-resolution elevation and discharge measurements of oceans and waterbodies from a satellite (http://swot.jpl.nasa.gov/). But before the satellite can launch, NASA must calibrate and validate the SWOT instrument using a plane-mounted version known as AirSWOT (https://swot.jpl.nasa.gov/airswot/). With SWOT technology, hydrologists, working in fresh water systems, will be able to calculate changes over time in the world’s lakes, oceans and rivers. This information will inform a wide range of socially relevant issues, like better understanding of water availability for farms and communities and improved ability to map flood hazards.

During the spring of 2015, three AirSWOT flights traveled along the Willamette River. The USGS and UO simultaneously collected measurements of water surface elevations that will enable the NASA to fine-tune their instruments.

Along with collecting concurrent data, USGS also installed 25 pressure transducers to continuously record water levels through May 2015. In addition, both USGS and UO deployed technical teams to survey water surface elevations and channel bathymetry (depth) throughout the Willamette Valley. These data can be used to develop and calibrate hydraulic models for evaluating inundation, water depths, and sediment transport for various flow and restoration scenarios. The models can also be useful for generating inundation maps for different low-flow or high-flow scenarios, which can ultimately provide critical information to river users, residents, and floodplain managers. The bathymetric datasets from 2015 can also be compared with earlier datasets to evaluate changes in bed elevation, which could signify potential for increased flood hazard or impacts to floodplain habitat and connectivity.

Rose Wallick, Geomorphologist
U.S. Geological Survey
2130 SW 5th Ave.
Portland, OR 97201
(503) 251-3219

Mark Fonstad, Associate Professor
University of Oregon, Dept. of Geography
Eugene, OR 97403-1251
(541) 346-4208