Stream Hydrology and Morphology

Mark Bowen
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
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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

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This page first made public: Nov 24, 2014


Students create and interpret hydrographs, discharge data, and stream cross-sectional and longitudinal profiles.

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The activity is used in an undergraduate introductory physical geography course that includes a 2-hour laboratory session that meets once per week. The focus of the course is landforms and soils. The course is predominantly composed of non-majors.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

None, but it helps if students have previously created and interpreted graphs.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a stand-alone exercise that reinforces concepts introduced in lecture.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

  • Graph discharge data and interpret a stream hydrograph
  • Plot regression line
  • Calculate recurrence interval
  • Plot and interpret stream survey data
  • Calculate stream cross-sectional area, discharge, and gradient

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

This is a four-part exercise. First, students use discharge and precipitation data to create and interpret hydrographs. In part 2, students are provide with 25 years of mean annual discharge for a river and they calculate and plot recurrence interval to estimate discharge for given recurrence intervals and estimate the recurrence interval for given discharges. Students then create a cross-sectional profile and conduct a series of calculations. In the final part, students create and interpret a longitudinal profile.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students complete the exercise during a 2-hour laboratory session. Students are expected to work in pairs. Upon completion of the laboratory exercise, students must complete an online quiz that consists of the same questions in the exercise as well as questions on the background information included in the lab before the next lab meeting. The online quiz is within the Desire 2 Learn (D2L) online learning platform, so answers are automatically graded and imported into the student's grade book.

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