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Binghamton Geomorphology Symposium 2019

On October 11 – 13, the 50th Binghamton Geomorphology Symposium was held at Metropolitan State University in Denver, Colorado. It’s theme was “The BGS: 50 years of Enhancing Geomorphology”. Given the historic anniversary, there were many different speakers with various topics but with the theme of “looking back and looking forward”. Speakers many geomorphologists such as Vic Baker, Ellen Wohl, Andrew Goudie, Dick Marston, Janet Hooke, and Heather Viles. UO River Group member Mark Fonstad spoke on the topic of “The Camera and the Geomorphologist”. The meeting was complemented with a day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. Link:

NSF funds “Next-Generation Riverscape Mapping and Monitoring”

The NSF-EAGER program has recently funded the project “Next-Generation Riverscape Mapping and Monitoring” for $300,000. This project is lead by Co-PI Mark Fonstad and River Group alumnus James Dietrch (UNI), and is being primarily managed by postdoctoral scholar Aaron Zettler-Mann. The goals of the project are to develop and test new river monitoring and mapping approaches that can map riverwide variables at high resolution with open or off-the-shelf tools at relatively low cost and reduced labor. The project is focusing on instrument suites on two different platforms — our research cataraft as well as a new open-source drone boat that can be operated by remote control or can be pulled behind another boat.

Summer 2017 Sandy River Fieldwork

This past August, three of us (Mark Fonstad, Aaron Zettler-Mann, and James Major) spent three days on the lower Sandy River between Mt. Hood and Portland. We were performing an experiment: how many river miles is it possible to float in a few days while at the same time flying a drone to collect very high resolution imagery from which channel sediment data and morphology can be extracted? We took the department’s cataraft, and while it is the ideal platform for this kind of work, the water levels in the Sandy River were low, and there was a fair amount of boat-dragging necessary. Nevertheless, we were able to cover about 40 km in those three days, and we collected 2-cm resolution imagery over almost every river bar along this section of the river. The Sandy River is geomorphically highly active, and is well known for the Marmot Dam removal higher in the watershed several years ago.

Aaron Zettler-Mann receives NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant

PhD Student Aaron Zettler-Mann has received a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation. Aaron’s dissertation is entitled “Lateral Channel Confinement and its Impact on Channel Morphology”, and this grant (for $15,912) will allow Aaron to conduct fieldwork and analysis of the Rogue River and the influence of lateral sediment supply on channel morphology. Aaron has extensive experience on extracting 3D data and orthophotographs from imagery, and these skills will allow him to produce sediment maps throughout the river system through automated feature extraction from imagery techniques. Aaron hopes to test the applicability of the sediment links theory concept to the Rogue River and extend the concept to sediment sources from hillslopes in addition to the traditional tributary sources. Aaron’s advisor is Mark Fonstad.

Dissertation Field Work, Aaron Zettler-Mann – Summer 2017

This summer Aaron Zettler-Mann conducted the first of two years of National Science Foundation funded dissertation work on the Rogue River in southern Oregon. Aaron is taking a riverscapes approach to examine how lateral channel constrictions such as roads, railroads, levees and bridge abutments impact channel morphology variables, including channel width, depth and the particle size distribution of river bars. This field work will also be used to further test the “Sediment Links” theory which suggests that patterns in channel width, depth and grain size are linked to the presence of tributaries. Field work for Aaron consisted of rafting over 60 kilometers, taking photographs from UAVs and a camera-on-a-pole of gravel bars, photographing the river banks and measuring channel depth. Below, pictures from the Rogue River. Clockwise from upper left: black bear sightings, UAV based image acquisition in the Recreation Section, battery charging and swimming at camp, camera-on-a-pole image acquisition in the Wild and Scenic section, on the water, and (center) gravel bar orthophoto ready for particle size distribution mapping.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Based Vegetation Mapping, Middle Fork John Day

In early June, doctoral candidate Aaron Zettler-Mann and recent baccalaureate graduate James Major spent three days flying a UAV on the Middle Fork of the John Day. The object of the project was to produce an orthophotograph of floodplain vegetation along a 2.5 kilometer by 0.5 kilometer section of the Middle Fork Valley Floor. The orthophoto will be used to map distinct vegetation species on the floodplain, with species identification occurring in the field. The resulting floodplain vegetation maps will be compared to previous field surveys of floodplain vegetation dating back as far as 1996. Additionally, this map will serve as baseline vegetation data going forward. Active channel restoration occurred beginning in July of 2017 and the vegetation map will allow future monitoring of floodplain vegetation communities which are a good indicator of changes to ground water flow. Below, the orthophoto compose for the study area and some pictures from the ground of vegetation and floodplain terrain.

2016 Binghamton Geomorphology Symposium – Connectivity in Geomorphology

Professor Mark Fonstad and graduate student Aaron Zettler-Mann attended the symposium in Fort Collins, Colorado. The symposium included a field trip on Friday just outside Rocky Mountain National Park looking at connectivity as related to beaver dams and upstream – downstream nutrient flow and the development of meadows. We also looked at hillslope – channel connectivity as related to a major flooding event in the Front Range of Colorado in September of 2013.

There were a variety of talks related to connectivity over the two days of the symposium. Of specific interest to the River Research Group were Stephen Rice who spoke about the Sediment Links concept, Leonard Sklar who spoke about sediment size and hillslope morphology, Karen Grant who spoke about sediment pulse evolution and Gordon Grant who spoke about equilibrium states and dynamic fluctuations. Or, as he put it “Fluvial (Dis)continuity”.

This symposium was of tremendous value to Aaron due to its size which allowed for a number of conversations with key members of the geomorphology community. Especially as he develops the theoretical context for his dissertation work.

UO River Group at 2015 AGU

agu-postersCurrent and Former UO River Group members will be active at this year’s AGU meeting in San Francisco. Below is the list of presentations and their times & locations.

Current River Group People Presenting at AGU

River Discharge Estimation Using Imaged Critical Flow Phenomena (Poster) – H41E-1375
Thursday, 17 December 2015, 08:00 – 12:20, Moscone South – Poster Hall
Mark Fonstad, University of Oregon, Gordon Grant, Oregon State University

Refining measurements of lateral channel movement from image time series by quantifying spatial variations in registration error (Poster) – H41E-1368
Thursday, 17 December 2015, 08:00 – 12:20, Moscone South – Poster Hall
Devin Lea, University of Oregon, Carl Legleiter, University of Wyoming

Comparing Remote Sensing Techniques in Detecting Salmonid Habitat, Salmon River, Oregon (Poster) – EP43B-0976
Thursday, 17 December 2015, 13:40 – 18:00, Moscone South – Poster Hall
Christina Shintani, University of Oregon

Modeling the Effects of Connecting Side Channels to the Long Tom River, Oregon (Poster) – EP43B-0984
Thursday, 17 December 2015, 13:40 – 18:00, Moscone South – Poster Hall
Christina Appleby, University of Oregon
Patricia McDowell, University of Oregon

Comparing effects of active and passive restoration on the Middle Fork John Day River, NE Oregon (Talk) – EP41E-05
Thursday, 17 December 2015, 09:00 – 09:15, Moscone West – 2005
Patricia McDowell, University of Oregon

A Native Sedge, Carex nudata, as Facilitator of Restoration Goals: Effects on Channel Morphology and Planform in the Middle Fork John Day River (Talk) – EP41E-06
Thursday, 17 December 2015, 09:15 – 09:30, Moscone West – 2005
Matthew Goslin, University of Oregon

Former River Group Members Presenting at AGU

Effects of Engineered Log Jams on Channel Morphology, Middle Fork of the John Day River, Oregon (Poster) – EP43B-0973
Thursday, 17 December 2015, 13:40 – 18:00, Moscone South – Poster Hall
Jenna Duffin, University of Oregon, Pat McDowell, University of Oregon

High-Resolution 3D Bathymetric Mapping for Small Streams Using Low-Altitude Aerial Photography (Talk) – EP54B-01
Friday, 18 December 2015, 16:00 – 16:15, Moscone West – 2003
James Dietrich, Dartmouth College, Jenna Duffin, University of Oregon

Persistent River Basin Disequilibrium in a Cratonic Landscape: Ozark Dome, USA (Poster) – EP41A-0911
Thursday, 17 December 2015, 08:00 – 12:20, Moscone South – Poster Hall
Helen Beeson, University of Nevada – Reno, Scott McCoy, University of Nevada – Reno, Amanda Keen-Zebert, Desert Research Institute – Reno

Who is in the Driver’s Seat? Millennial-Scale Records of Wildfire in the Western USA Reveal a Complex Interplay of Climate, Fire, and Vegetation (Talk) – B11N-05
Monday, 14 December 2015, 09:00 – 09:15, Moscone West – 2010
Jennifer Pierce, Boise State University, Grant Meyer, University of New Mexico, Erica Bigio, University of Arizona, Nathan Nelson, USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, Michael Poulos, Boise State University, Sara Jenkins, University of British Columbia, Kerry Riley, Utah State University, Kerrie Weppner, Boise State University, Lar Svenson, USGS Idaho Water Science Center, Erin Fitch, Hawai’i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, Jed Frechette, University of New Mexico

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 ( But before the satellite can launch, NASA must calibrate and validate the SWOT instrument using a plane-mounted version known as 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

“Life After A PhD Program”: UO Graduate School interview with river group alum Sarah Praskievicz

The University of Oregon’s Graduate School recently published an article about recent river group alumni Sarah Praskievicz entitled “Life After a PhD Program”. The article is online here: Sarah graduated in the spring of 2014 and is now an assistant professor of Geography at the University of Alabama. Well done Sarah!
SP - photo real final.