Dam the Wilderness: Building "Green Hydropower" on Big Creek

Benjamin Crosby
Idaho State University
Author Profile


Students exercise knowledge of how dams impact physical and biological systems to try to design a dam that minimizes its impacts while still meeting power production and water diversion requirements.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



Upper division undergraduate/Graduate course in geomorphology

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

analysis of hydrologic data available from USGS sites
visualization and measurement of landscape features using GIS
knowledge of how to predict or measure sediment flux and calculate initiation of motion for bed material

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a culminating project that allows students to apply skills learned prior towards a real-world problem


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Collection, synthesis and interpretation of existing data (Hydrologic, sedimentalogical, climatic, ecological) towards answering a single question

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students divide the different tasks for describing the physical and biological processes and must work together to come up with a single implementation. This involves cost-benefit analysis and the ability to compromise one thing for another.

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

Student must synthesize the data that go into the construction and operation of a large hydroelectric dam. Students must strive to develop a design that minimizes or mitigates the impacts of the dam on the existing watershed. Students divide the analysis and frequently present to each other their findings. These findings are then synthesized into independent reports produced by each student.
Designed for a geomorphology course
Uses online and/or real-time data
Uses geomorphology to solve problems in other fields
Addresses student misconceptions

Determining whether students have met the goals

Two written reports and multiple individual class presentations.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials