Stream Dynamics and the Urban Environment
This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process.
This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.
This page first made public: Dec 8, 2011
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
How the activity is situated in the course
Content/concepts goals for this activity
- Students will develop an understanding of factors that affect stream discharge.
- Students will know how to measure the data for the stream discharge equation, Q = AV.
- Students will develop an understanding of the ways in which urban development affects stream dynamics and alters natural services provided by stream ecosystems.
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Formulation of hypotheses ~ students will predict how urban development would affect stream discharge during storm events.
Other skills goals for this activity
Description of the activity/assignment
After the field trip, given a topographic map of the area, students delineate the stream's watershed boundary. Students analyze the satellite image of the watershed to determine land use patterns. Students use online USGS data to draft a storm hydrograph and determine lag time for this stream after a rain event (video and photos of this stream at normal and flood stage are posted on the class website). The students also compare data from a stream in a nearby national forest during a similar storm event, noting differences in the storm hydrograph and lag time.
Determining whether students have met the goals
- Students will hand in a field trip report that demonstrates that they have successfully measured cross-sectional area and velocity of the stream and have calculated stream discharge.
- Students will complete a neatly drafted sketch of the stream reach with relevant written observations.
- Students will be able to discuss the differences in stream dynamics between the urban and forested streams.
- Students will be able to analyze their data for sources of error (groups will compare data for the same stream reach on the same day).
- Students will get into the stream (wearing fashionable hip boots)!
- After the field trip: Students will be able to draft storm hydrographs and calculate lag time for an urban and a forested stream. Students will be able to use satellite images to determine land use patterns.
Download teaching materials and tips
Interactive activity on stream discharge with good animations of concepts.
Virtual River , from sciencecourseware.org
The Scientific Imperative for Defending Small Streams and Wetlands
Research sponsored by American Rivers and the Sierra Club.
Physical, Chemical, and Biological Responses of Streams to Increasing Watershed Urbanization in the Piedmont Ecoregion of Georgia and Alabama, 2003 ~ By M. Brian Gregory and Daniel L. Calhoun
Links on Impervious Surfaces ~ The NEMO (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials) Program
Source for Flow Probe
USGS Water Data (more info)
U.S.G.S. Reports on Urban Streams
Aquatic Life Declines at Early Stages of Urban Development
Effects of Urbanization on Stream Ecosystems