Sediment Transport

Calla Schmidt, University of San Francisco

Sarah R. Hall, College of the Atlantic

Becca Walker, Mt. San Antonio College


In this exercise, students gain experience observing streams. They practice measuring stream discharge, sediment sampling, and channel surveying, and using their field data, they make predictions about bed mobility.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Learning Goals

Content/Concept Goals:

Students will...

  • Practice field techniques for measuring stream discharge.
  • Learn basic field technique for sediment sampling.
  • Practice surveying channel geometry.

Higher Order Thinking Skills Goals:

Students will...

  • Use field data and theoretical and empirical relations to make predictions about bed mobility.

Other Skills Goals for this Activity:

Students will...

  • Derive empirical coefficients from field data.
  • Collect field data in an organized fashion so that it can easily be shared with fellow students.

Context for Use


This activity was completed during the 2-week summer E-STEM Field Course with ~20 undergraduate students interested in environmental science.Prerequisite Skills and Concepts:

This activity assumes students have prior experience with surveying a channel and measuring stream discharge.

How the Activity is Situated in the Course:

This activity was taught after students had already surveyed channel geometry and measured stream discharge in previous field exercises. This activity is intended to give students additional practice with those skills while introducing new material related to sediment transport. View the E-STEM field course timeline for more information about how this activity was situated in the field course.

Description and Teaching Materials

Student Handout

sediment_transport_handout.docx (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 21kB Sep11 20)

Teaching Notes and Tips

I suggest breaking your class into groups of three students and setting up a rotation through stations for surveying, discharge measurements, and pebble counts. For example, we set up two total stations, one positioned for a longitudinal survey and one positioned for channel cross sections. We then set up two locations for discharge measurements and two locations for pebble counts, for a total of 6 stations. Student groups rotated through the stations to get at least one turn with surveying, discharge, and pebble counting. When we returned from the field students shared data to get a complete dataset.


Assess this activity with the rubric used for the Hydrology Badge.

References and Resources

Exercise modified from SEIS Institute: What controls the shape of a river? Activity