stream hydrology field lab

Anne Carey, The Ohio State University
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Initial Publication Date: June 11, 2014 | Reviewed: June 24, 2014


In this lab we take a brief field trip to Adena Brook, a first order tributary of the Olentangy River in central Ohio. We observe the stream, its setting, its bedrock, determine some stream velocity profiles, and measure some basic chemical and physical properties of the stream water.

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This field lab is one lab in an undergraduate majors course in Geomorphology that is part of the core curriculum in our Earth Sciences BS track in Earth System Science and is an elective in our other four tracks (Geological Sciences, Geophysics, Petroleum Geology). The course is also required of Physical Geography majors and can serve as a technical elective for some engineering majors (e.g., Civil Engineering, Agricultural Engineering).

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Topics covered during lectures earlier in the semester, before this lab, include climate and geomorphological processes, tectonic geomorphology, weathering and soils, glaciers and mass movement, the role of water in land scales, stream hydrology, and sediment transport.

How the activity is situated in the course

This lab it is a stand-alone exercise that is typically conducted about halfway through the semester and serves as one of approximately 12 labs conducted during the semester.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Vertical velocity profiles. Velocity variations at different locations across a stream. Laminar flow. Turbulent flow.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Data analysis. Calculations using measured stream data.

Other skills goals for this activity

Data collection. Doppler current meter operation. Use of field meter (pH, DO, conductivity, temperature).

Description and Teaching Materials

Laboratory exercise provided to the students is attached as a Word file.
Student handout for stream hydrology field lab (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 93kB Jun11 14)

Teaching Notes and Tips

The stream I use is typically at base flow and is easily waded. Students are typically surprised that a slowly flowing stream is fully turbulent.


The common dataset collected during the lab means all students should determine the same instantaneous discharge.

References and Resources