Pat McDowell


GEOG 322: Geomorphology
Landforming processes with an emphasis on mass movements, rivers, eolian, glacial and coastal processes

GEOG 360: Watershed Science and Policy
Physical and biological processes of watersheds; problems of land use, water quality, riparian zones, aquatic ecology; scientific basis of watershed management and policy

GEOG 4/527:  Fluvial Geomorphology
Hydraulics and hydrology of stream channels; channel morphology and processes; drainage network development; fluvial deposits and landforms; field and analytical methods

GEOG 607: Seminar on Water Resources and Climate Change
Effects of future and historical climate change on freshwater resources, with an emphasis on drought, flooding, water supply, water quality, river channels, ecosystems and species, dam management.  Integration of biophysical, management and policy aspects.  Individual research paper required.  (Note: Water Resources and Climate Change is the topic for winter 2015.  Topic changes with each offering.)


My current research includes three topics:  river restoration monitoring, river and floodplain geomorphology, and channel-vegetation interactions.

River restoration monitoring


Surveying a cross-section on the Middle Fork John Day
Surveying a cross-section on the Middle Fork John Day

Middle Fork John Day River Project
Since 2008 I have been working with a restoration group in the Blue Mountains of Northeastern Oregon (Middle Fork John Day IMW).  Our role is monitoring the effectiveness of restoration projects for geomorphology and physical habitat.  Using field measurements, GIS and remote sensing, we are evaluating changes in channel morphology, bed material, fish habitat, bank conditions, and other characteristics.  Funding from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board supports this project.  We work with other MFJD IMW participants, including the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, North Fork John Day Watershed Council, U. S. Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, and Oregon State University.  A number of graduate and undergraduate students have been research assistants on this project.  Two masters theses (Tu, 2011; Michaelson-Correa, 2011) related to this project have been completed; two master’s theses (Duffin, Dutterer) and one doctoral dissertation (Goslin) are currently underway.

Middle Fork Willamette River Project 
This project (2010-12) developed monitoring methods and produced baseline monitoring data, to detect effectiveness of environmental flow releases from Lookout-Dexter Point Dams located about 20 miles southeast of Eugene.  The analysis focused on sediment transport and bars, and large wood.  The main approach was analysis of historical remote sensing imagery.  This work was funded by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and also involved collaboration with The Nature Conservancy.

River and floodplain geomorphology


Jim O'Connor and Pollyanna Lind examining bank exposures on the Sprague River
Jim O’Connor and Pollyanna Lind examining bank exposures on the Sprague River

Sprague River Project 
The Sprague River is a major tributary to Upper Klamath Lake in southern Oregon, and provides habitat for native sucker fish, bull trout, and potentially for chinook salmon.  The Klamath Basin is the site of intensive restoration activity to improve populations of native fish listed under the Endangered Species Act and aquatic and riparian habitat in general.  The goals of the project were to 1) document channel and floodplain geomorphology; 2) understand processes and rates of channel change; and 3) document patterns and historical change in floodplain vegetation, to support restoration planning. Multiple approaches were used, including field stratigraphy, aerial imagery and remote sensing, and channel reconstruction from 19th century U. S. land surveys.  Our research partner in this project was the U. S. Geologic Survey in Portland, OR, and it was funded by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  One dissertation (Rasmussen, 2010), and one master’s thesis (Lind, 2011) were completed on this project.  For more information, see Geomorphology of the Sprague River web page.

Sprague River floodplain and Council Butte
Sprague River floodplain and Council Butte

Umatilla River Project
The Umatilla is a tributary of the Columbia River in northeastern Oregon, flowing through the Umatilla National Forest, the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and agricultural lands.  The goal of this project, funded by the National Science Foundation, was to evaluate channel change stemming from large floods in 1994 and 1996-7.  In particular, we found that human response to the 1964 flood – installation of rip-rap and revetments — suppressed the effects of the 1996-7 flooding.  The main approach was assessing channel change through historical aerial imagery.  One dissertation (Hughes, 2009) was completed on this project.

Channel-vegetation interactions

Torrent sedge (Carex nudata) colonizes active gravel beds in the Middle Fork John Day
Torrent sedge (Carex nudata) colonizes active gravel beds in the Middle Fork John Day

I am interested in how streamside vegetation influences hydraulic processes, sedimentation, and channel form in alluvial rivers.  As vegetation changes through human impacts (livestock grazing or cessation of grazing, land use changes, invasive species), will these changes have measurable effects on channel form?  To what extent have such changes produced change in the past?  How can modeling be sued to understand the impacts of vegetation on channel flow and processes?  I have approached this theme through several of the projects listed above.  One completed dissertation (Martinez, 2013), and one dissertation in progress (Goslin) address this theme.

 Other activities

I am involved in several local river-oriented groups.  I am a member of the technical advisory committees for the Long Tom Watershed Council and the Middle Fork Willamette Watershed Council.  I provide advice on proposed restoration projects and action plans.  I am also a member of the Lands and Stewardship Committee of the McKenzie River Trust, a land trust involved in protecting special lands and restoring natural systems in western Oregon.  I am also interested in policy issues related to river resources, and I have served on several study committees for the U. S. National Research Council, and the Committee on Geography.

My C. V.


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