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Graduate Research

Mineral Bottom Boat Launch on the Green River

Mineral Bottom Boat Launch on the Green River

My graduate thesis research was an assessment of channel change on the Green River. Over the last century, the Green River near Canyonlands National Park has been impacted by anthropogenic events. Construction of Flaming Gorge Dam changed peak flow and mean daily discharge on the river. Compared to pre-dam data, the typical yearly hydrograph measured at Green River, UT has higher flows during summer and lower peak flows during the spring snowmelt. The second major human impact is invasive species infiltration by the plant groups tamarisk and Russian olive. Both have colonized large parts of the floodplain, stabilizing banks and limiting erosional processes.

Green River in Canyonlands National Park, looking downstream at Hardscrabble Bottom from the Labyrinth Campground.

Green River in Canyonlands National Park, looking downstream at Hardscrabble Bottom from the Labyrinth Campground.

Evidence suggests that dam emplacement and vegetation infiltration are happening within a greater climatic shift in the Western United States, one that has brought decreasing flows since the late 1920s. My research combined spatial analysis, hydrologic investigations and field work to understand the links between anthropogenic impacts and climatic shifts and how they contributed to 20th century channel change on the Green River in Canyonlands National Park.  

I found that channel narrowing of the Green River in the 20th century was primarily driven by changes in hydrology. The spread of invasive tamarisk promoted narrowing by trapping sediment and increasing bank cohesion, but vegetation did not cause the widespread narrowing of the lower Green River. My research also found that large amount of channel narrowing occurred after 1985; this recent narrowing is significant because it shows that that the channel is still capable of major changes a half-century after the construction of Flaming Gorge Dam. The channel is still active and may continue to narrow in future decades.

I conducted extensive field work, a detailed remote sensing analysis and a precise dendrochronologic inquiry. During the course of my research, I collaborated with scientists at the National Park Service, US Geological Survey and US Forest Service.

Outside of my graduate research, I contributed to Fill Mead First: A Technical Assessment, a report analyzing the Fill Mead First reservoir management proposal and it's potential for water savings (A PDF of the report can be found here). Additionally, I assisted in the MS research of Todd Blythe, who described processes of channel narrowing of the Rio Grande within Big Bend National Park. I participated as a survey technician on three field trips to map the floodplains and channel within Boquillas Canyon