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.

Rivers to Ridges Tour with the LTWC

On Earth Day, Christina Appleby participated in the Long Tom Watershed Council’s Rivers to Ridges group tour along the lower Long Tom River. The tour was attended by many partners of the Rivers to Ridges group including representatives from the Nature Conservancy, the Army Corps of Engineers, USFW, Lane County Parks, and Friends of Buford Park. The tour included intact hardwood floodplain forest, oak woodland and savannah, vernal pools, and wet and upland prairie habitats just north of the Fern Ridge Reservoir. The group learned about LTWC’s interest in the reconnection historic channel segments and their ongoing efforts to recreate wet prairies and restore open white oak woodlands on private lands.

Christina shared some of her thesis research ideas with the group as a part of the investigation into reconnecting historic meander bends to the main stem of the lower Long Tom River for fish passage improvement and floodplain reconnection. She was impressed by the widespread and beautiful camas flowers in the wet prairies and was pleased to see a herd of more than forty elk utilizing the restored woodlands.

Camas Prairie
Camas Prairie


Camas flower
Camas flower




Oak woodland
Oak woodland


LTWC's Katie MacKendrick
LTWC’s Katie MacKendrick

UO river group well represented at AAG 2016


Past and present River Rats were well represented at the Annual American Association of Geographers Meeting in San Francisco a couple weeks ago (March 29th – April 2nd). Present members Mark Fonstad, Pat McDowell, Pollyanna Lind, Matthew Goslin, and Devin Lea were joined by past members Didi Martinez, James Dietrich, Suzanne Walther, Sarah Praskievicz, Helen Beeson, and Denise Tu. Many of these individuals presented papers or posters, a sampling of which are provided here:

Mark Fonstad – Remote Sensing of River Discharge, Depth, and Velocity from Standing Wave Trains

Pollyanna Lind – Bedload Transport and Connectivity in a Steep Montane Tropical River – Rio Pacuare, Costa Rica

Matthew Goslin – Modeling Species Distributions of Carex Nudata, a Riparian Sedge Associated with Hydrological Variables within River Basins

Devin Lea – Channel migration and hazard vulnerability management in the Anthropocene

Didi Martinez – Sensitivity of Modeled Channel Hydraulic Variables to Invasive and Native Riparian Vegetation

Sarah Praskievicz – Satellite-Derived Local Topographic Lapse Rates of Precipitation for Use in Downscaling Climate-Model Output in Remote Mountainous Regions

James Dietrich – Detecting Fluvial Wood in Forested Watersheds Using LiDAR Data

Suzanne Walther – Flash flooding in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah: Quantifying Geomorphic Change on Pleasant Creek

San Francisco gave ample opportunity for past and present River Rats to (re)unite, and we look forward to another strong group attending AAG 2017 in Boston!

Picture: Pat Bartlein, Pat McDowell, Mark Fonstad, Didi Martinez, Suzanne Walther, Sarah Praskievicz, James Dietrich, Denise Hu, and Polly Lind (from left to right) at AAG 2016

Crazy things we do because curiousity demands it (and it was written into our dissertation proposal)

Last week, I (Matthew Goslin) ventured out to the Middle Fork John Day River where we are investigating effects on channel morphology of the native plant, Carex nudata (aka torrent sedge).  A key methodology are the arrays of erosion pins (steel rods) I’ve set out in river banks with and without C. nudata fringes.  We measure the length of the pins three times a year in transitions between summer/fall, winter/spring and spring/summer in order to capture different erosion processes.  The post-river ice/pre-spring peak flows measurement is one of the most important: it will allow us to distinguish between winter freeze/thaw processes which may cause erosion or, more problematically, push the pins outward and the fluvial erosion caused by spring snowmelt-driven peak flows.   It’s also the trickiest because there’s  a short window of time when the river is wadeable between the ice melt and rise in flows.

For reference, discharge at the nearest gage to our site is 20-60 cfs in summer and peak flows range from 600-900 cfs.  Last year, we measured pins while flow was around 120 cfs, a level we found barely wadeable.  This year, as soon as the ice melted, flows jumped to 600 cfs and then declined to 120 cfs.  I got my team ready as flows declined, but that window lasted only 4 days.  One night of rain and flows climbed and leveled at around 290 cfs, conditions in which we had never tried to work.  We forged ahead, finding dry suits to borrow from fish snorkel surveying friends.  We knew we would have to immerse ourselves in frigid water to get these measurements.

Arriving at Oxbow Conservation Area, we were surprised to still see a patchwork of snow, bare in some places and 1-2 feet deep in others.  The first couple hours led me to despair: almost all of the pins were under water with turbidity and sediment making them invisible.  We would have to do this almost entirely by feel. Mission impossible?  Flows were too strong to cross the river, but we could work in the less powerful velocities near the edges.  We pushed ourselve to try and find and measure pins. We soon discovered we had a rhythm, it wasn’t impossible. By the end of the trip, we had measured about 90% of the pins.  Working in the frigid snowmelt water left us feeling miserable and elated all at the same time as we pushed through the challenge.  Jame Major (Pat McDowell’s undergrad research assistant) and Emily Erickson (a recent grad and summer river crew alum) were fantastic assistants, as was volunteer, Emily Davis of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs.

It was awe-inspiring to work in this snow melt landcape with water running (or just standing!) across surfaces everywhere, everything we learn about snowmelt-driven hydrology in action.


River Restoration Northwest Symposium 2016

Early in February, several River Rats — Christina Shintani, Christina Appleby, Pat McDowell and Matthew Goslin — attended the 15th annual River Restoration Northwest Symposium at Skamania Lodge in the Columbia River Gorge.  Christina Shintani and Pat McDowell both gave presentations about applications of Structure from Motion techniques for restoration monitoring. Christina Appleby, in addition to presenting a poster on her work in the Long Tom River, was one of the select few student volunteers facilitating the event.

Attending each of the past 3 years, the symposium is a unique event which has become one of my favorites (Matthew G).  Why do I like it so much? The symposium brings together several hundred people from diverse professional backgrounds — engineers, planners, policy folks and scientists from biologists to hydrologists —  representing a diversity of entities —  private environmental consulting and engineering firms, local to federal agencies, tribes, universities, non-profits — all of whom are motivated by their passion for rivers.  The symposium eschews multiple concurrent sessions for one single session in which everyone participates — stretching everyone with talks that may not be in their area of expertise, but in so doing bringing everyone together into the same conversation.  While the focal region is the Pacific Northwest, the symposium’s quality is increasingly  attracting participants from throughout the West as well as farther afield, including a couple talks from Scotland this year.  Highlights for me this year were featured talks by Matt Kondolf (UC Berkeley), “Erodible Corridors: Where Possible in Theory, Examples in Practice,” and Steward Rood (U. Lethbridge), “Functional Flows: A Practical Strategy for Healthy River” and a session on “Nature’s Ecological River Restorers” that exemplified the increasing recognition of biological and geomorphological linkages.  The symposium also allows ample time for socializing, meals together and networking, including a young professionals luncheon in which the UO students participated.

Each year, I find this event refreshing, perhaps because many talks focus not just on the critical science of understanding the damage that has been done to ecosystems, but also on figuring out methods and strategies to effect positive change and restoration for river systems, lessons learned and success stories.  Furthermore, in the context of our country’s contentious elections just getting underway, I was struck by stories of collaboration, efforts to talk across differences and bridge gaps between different stakeholder groups for the purpose of finding common ground around rivers. Perhaps river restoration practitioners understand better than most that we are indeed all connected and need to persist in efforts to work together, rivers make that connection an inescapable fact.


American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing sponsored Talk

On Thursday, January 28th the University of Oregon chapter of the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) sponsored a speaker as part of the Geography Departments weekly speaker series. Scott Anderson, a hydrologist from the USGS at the Washington Water Science Center gave a talk entitled Monitoring the fluvial erosion and downstream impacts of a large sediment slug using repeat SfM photogrammetry and real-time sediment gaging. The talk focused on the channel response to the Oso landslide in Washington and used areal structure-from-motion (SfM) photogrammetry as part of the analysis. After the talk, active members of ASPRS took Scott to dinner for further discussion of the benefits of SfM based geomorphic change detection and life beyond school.

New articles on remote sensing and rivers in the journal Geomorphology

This year’s newest river rat Devin Lea has had a pair of articles published in the journal Geomorphology in the past few months. The first article, titled Mapping spatial patterns of stream power and channel change along a gravel-bed river in northern Yellowstone highlights Devin’s Master’s work from the University of Wyoming with advisor Carl Legleiter. The article was part of a special issue (Volume 252) dedicated to the career of William Graf. Many articles in the issue were presented as a series of sessions at the 2014 annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers in Tampa, Florida, which was co-organized by Mark Fonstad and Bruce Rhoads at the University of Illinois. Devin paired again with Carl Legleiter to author the second article titled Refining measurements of lateral channel movement from image time series by quantifying spatial variations in registration error. The paper builds on quantifying error as done by past UO grad student Michael Hughes (et al., 2006) to provide a framework for calculating spatially varying error for images based on their ground control points. The paper can be found in Volume 258, and links to both papers through Geomorphology are provided below:

Mapping spatial patterns of stream power and channel change along a gravel-bed river in northern Yellowstone


Refining measurements of lateral channel movement from image time series by quantifying spatial variations in registration error


Winter Field Work on the Long Tom River

Over the winter, Christina Appleby returned to her field sites on the lower Long Tom River near Monroe, OR. Her goal was to visit her sites during higher flood flows. She surveyed multiple water surface elevations along that she will use to calibrate a 2D HEC-RAS model of the region.

Monroe Drop Structure – Summer low flow (left), Winter high flow (right)


Historic meander bends during Winter high flow


Oregon Dunes Field Trip, Nov. 14, 2015

In mid-November, several members of the River Group went on a one-day field trip to the Oregon Dunes as part of the second field trip for Mark Fonstad’s seminar course on the Physical Geography of Oregon. The group hiked through the Dunes on the Tahkenitch Dunes Trail and Threemile Lake North Trail and made brief stops at Tahkenitch Lake and Clearwox Lake. River Group member Christina Appleby and fellow graduate student Dongmei Chen led the field trip and led a discussion of the formation, geomorphology, and changing ecology of the Dunes.


DiscussionClearwox Lake - D. ChenOregon CoastTahkentich Dunes 2Threemile LakeTahkenitch Dunes 3_IGP8427Tahkenitch Dunes_IGP8405

All photos taken by Dongmei Chen

From top left to bottom right: Group Discussion, Clearwox Lake, Oregon Coast, Tahkenitch Dunes, Threemile Lake, Tahkenitch Dunes, Tahkenitch Dunes Trail through Sitka spruce and Pine tree forest, Tahkenitch Dunes, Deflation plane along Tahkentich Dune Trail




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

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