Mono Lake North Synthesis Project

Sarah R. Hall, College of the Atlantic

John Paul, University of San Francisco

Calla Schmidt, University of San Francisco

Becca Walker, Mt. San Antonio College


The Mono North site allowed for activities in all four content areas (Geomorphology, Geology, Hydrology, and Ecology). of the E-STEM field course. In working through the Mono North Synthesis Project, students rotated between Mono Lake North Geomorphic Mapping, Mono Lake North Shoreline Stratigraphy, Transect Mapping, and a measuring stream discharge activity.

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Learning Goals

Learning goals for the different activities students completed at this field site are listed on the individual activity pages.

Context for Use


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

How the Activity is Situated in the Course:

This is a culminating synthesis project in which students will rotate between four stations that cover the four content areas of the course (geomorphology, hydrology, geology, and botany). View the E-STEM field course timeline for more information about how this activity is situated in the course.

Description and Teaching Materials

Gemorphology Activity

Mono Lake North Geomorphic Mapping

In this activity students observe Mono Lake North in the field and via remote imagery to identify fluvial geomorphic features. With these observations and data collected in the field students create annotated geomorphic maps, determine relative ages of fluvial terraces, interpret geomorphic development of the stream, and synthesize information to identify the relation between vegetation, geology and geomorphic features.

Geology Activity

Mono Lake North Paleoshoreline Mapping

Students observe Mono Lake North to generate interpretations of the lake through time, including illustrating the geomorphic expression of lake level changes and interpreting the depositional environment of a preserved sequence of sediments. Using field data, students compare the paleoshoreline and modern shoreline stratigraphy.

Ecology Activity

Transect Mapping

Students learn how to 'read' landscapes they experience, using geologic, hydrological, and botanical/ecological techniques. They learn two simple and widely used methods for quantitatively measuring the density of individuals and diversity of morphospecies. This will allows students to see how both the density and diversity of individuals and species changes with landscape features. This activity extends this knowledge to using the density, diversity, and distribution of plant species to understand landscapes.

Hydrology Activity

Sediment Transport

Building upon skills developed in previous exercises students survey channel geometry, measure discharge, and determine median grain size in the channel. Students synthesize their field data by estimating bankfull discharge and determining if this flow would be capable of mobilizing the channel sediments.


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