Teach the Earth > Geomorphology > Teaching Activities > Hydraulic Geometry in the Greys River Watershed

Hydraulic Geometry in the Greys River Watershed

Benjamin Crosby
Idaho State University
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

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: Jul 28, 2008


Following lectures regarding catchment hydrology and fluvial processes, students complete a two day field analysis of a watershed from headwaters to outlet, measuring fluvial parameters such as channel geometry, sediment character and discharge. Students synthesize this data to demonstrate where traditional scaling arguments work and where they break down.

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UG/G course in Geomorphology

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Use of Excel and a brief introduction to GIS

How the activity is situated in the course

This is the first field exercise where students learn to take notes, survey and collect data efficiently and accurately in the field. Its is also the first time many of them analyze data that they collected and recognize the scatter inherent in field data.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Collect and analyze field data regarding channel geometry, bed sediment and water discharge.
Evaluate the strength of scaling relationship defined using only a handfull of data points.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Dealing with and drawing conclusions from imperfect data

Other skills goals for this activity

Survey and measurement skills in rivers.

Description of the activity/assignment

This introductory exercise allows students to evaluate predictions from hydraulic geometry, area-discharge scaling and downstream fining in a complex field environment. For many this is their first time collecting, entering, plotting and analyzing data.
Designed for a geomorphology course
Uses online and/or real-time data
Addresses student fear of quantitative aspect and/or inadequate quantitative skills

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students are evaluated on their field notes, their data entry and analysis, their mapped locations, and a final report (short-format scientific report).

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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