Florida River Project: Measuring discharge, sediment, and water chemistry

Kim Hannula
Fort Lewis College
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This data collection lab is part of a semester-long project, monitoring a local river.

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Introductory Earth Systems Science and Environmental Geology courses with labs. Courses are aimed at non-majors, but also can replace Physical Geology as prerequisites to sophomore-level courses.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Concepts: discharge, sediment load, dissolved load of rivers.

Skills: reading a topographic map, using a calculator to multiply and add, converting units (including cubic meters to cubic feet).

How the activity is situated in the course

This is the data collection portion of a semester-long project. It takes place approximately two-thirds of the way through the semester.
See an overview of this project and find descriptions for each of the activities on the Florida River overview page.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Discharge, sediment load, dissolved load, erosion and deposition of sediment by rivers.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Evaluation of data to decide whether it is reasonable, explaining discrepancies, collection of data for continued analysis.

Other skills goals for this activity

Simple calculations, unit conversions.

Description of the activity/assignment

This is the data collection portion of a semester-long project. Before this lab, students will have graphed discharge data for one previous water year, graphed similar data collected by classes during a previous year, written one-page explanations of the techniques that they will be using, and speculated about the results they expect to get. After this lab, their data will be shared with other lab sections, which will have collected similar data at other sites along the same river. Each research group will present their preliminary data to the class during a later lab meeting, and the class will discuss how the different types of data relate to one another. The project culminates in a final paper (one per research group).

Determining whether students have met the goals

This part of the assignment is graded based on participation: were the students present and actively involved in collecting the data.

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