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Development of hyporheic exchange and nutrient uptake following stream restoration

Next week, the Watershed Hydrology Lab will be well represented at the CUAHSI 2014 Biennial Colloquium. We’ll be presenting four posters, so here come the abstracts…

Development of hyporheic exchange and nutrient uptake following stream restoration

Stuart Baker and Anne Jefferson

Stream restoration is a multi-million dollar industry in Ohio, with major goals of improving water quality and degraded habitat. Yet restoration often falls short of significant improvements in water quality and biodiversity. It is thus important to improve the theory and practice of stream restoration in order to achieve greater benefits per dollar spent, yet there are limited data and understanding of the physical and biogeochemical responses to restoration that constrain the potential for water quality and ecological improvements. Hyporheic exchange, the flow of water into and out of the streambed, is an important stream process that serves critical roles in naturally functioning streams, allowing for stream water to participate with the substrate in various processes. Hyporheic flowpaths can be altered by the transport of fine sediment through the stream bed and are thus susceptible to changes in sediment regime and hydraulics, as well as the changes wrought by construction of a restoration project. The goal of this research is to determine the effectiveness of restoration in enhancing hyporheic flow and associated biogeochemical processes to improve water quality. Preliminary results from Kelsey Creek, OH, a second-order stream restored in August 2013, show a decrease in average hydraulic conductivity but an increase in heterogeneity from pre-restoration (geometric mean 8.47×10-5 m/s, range 1.18×10-6-1.19×10-3) to post-restoration (geometric mean 4.41×10-5 m/s, range 2.67×10-5-3.05×10-4) in piezometer nests through large constructed riffle structures. These piezometers also indicate dominance of downwelling throughout riffle structures with only isolated locations of upwelling. Transient storage and hyporheic exchange will be measured with resazurin injections for comparison between pre-restoration and post-restoration, and nutrient injections of NH4Cl at time points following the restoration will compare the nitrogen uptake rates of the restored reach to an unrestored reach downstream. Additional sites are planned for study to include restoration projects of different ages to examine the development of hyporheic exchange and biogeochemistry after completion of restoration projects.

After the dam comes out: groundwater-stream interactions and water quality impacts of former reservoir sites

Next week, the Watershed Hydrology Lab will be well represented at the CUAHSI 2014 Biennial Colloquium. We’ll be presenting four posters, so here come the abstracts…

After the dam comes out: groundwater-stream interactions and water quality impacts of former reservoir sites

Krista Brown and Anne Jefferson

Over that past decade, dam removals have become increasingly popular, as many dams near the end of their life expectancy. With an increasing number of anticipated dam removals coming in the near future this study aims to develop an understanding of groundwater-stream interactions and water quality in former reservoir sites after dam removals have occurred. Low head dams (~2 m) were removed in 2009 from Plum Creek in Kent, Portage County, Ohio and on Kelsey Creek in Cuyahoga Falls, Summit County, Ohio. Kelsey Creek reservoir has been unaltered since the dam removal and consists of a stream channel flowing through riparian- wetland environments, while Plum Creek reservoir underwent channel restoration in 2011. At Kelsey Creek, 20 piezometers and 3 wells were installed in the stream and riparian areas. Pressure transducers were also deployed in each well and stream from November 20, 2013 to January 5, 2014. Hydraulic conductivity was calculated using the Hvorslev method. Since October 2013, hydraulic heads have been recorded semi-weekly and water samples have been taken in the wells and stream. Water quality is being evaluated with field-measured pH, temperature, specific conductance, and dissolved oxygen, and ion chromatography of chloride, bromide, nitrate, sulfate and phosphate concentrations. Plum Creek is being used to understand the water quality effects of channel restoration at former reservoir sites.
At Kelsey Creek, hydraulic conductivity ranges five magnitudes, from 10?2 to 10?6 m/s, but wells near the channel, in an off-channel wetland, and on an adjacent hillslope respond similarly during high flow events. However, the well closest to the stream shows substantial variability in specific conductance, indicating bidirectional groundwater-stream exchange. Despite the wetlands and presumed greater groundwater-stream exchange in the unrestored Kelsey Creek, stream water quality is similar to the restored Plum Creek site. This suggests that the water quality measures considered here should not determine whether to restore channels within former reservoir sites. Findings from this research may be applicable when considering options for future dam removal sites.

Internships with Cuyahoga Valley NP Conservancy

I got this email from someone at the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and I thought I would share it here.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) and its nonprofit friends group, the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, have a number of spring and summer internships and jobs to offer to your students. Ranging from Graphic Design and Public Relations to Environmental Education and Resource Monitoring, CVNP has a large variety of opportunities.

Located between Cleveland and Akron, CVNP enables college students to apply classroom learning and gain hands-on experience in a unique work environment. Check out our current internship postings

Find seasonal job announcements for a GS-3 or GS-4 or GS-5 seasonal Park Guide, open for applications between January 22 and January 28 and the GS-5 Interpretative Park Ranger, open for applications between February 3 and February 7, Interested applicants must apply at

Attend Alternative Spring Break Weekend, March 14 – March 17. Program features include volunteer service projects; special presentations on careers in national parks; guided hikes; campfire and recreational activities; and lodging and meals provided at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center. For more information or to receive an application, contact (330) 657-2796 ext. 100 or

The Cuyahoga Falls dam removal video you’ve been waiting for

Cross-posted at Highly Allochthonous

This summer we were treated to not one but two dam removals on the Cuyahoga River, ~10 miles downstream from Kent. Those following me on twitter know that I obsessed about these removals all summer long, first as they were delayed by weeks of high water, then as they got started and I got to watch first on the live “dam cam” and then in person. But the video compresses a whole summer of waiting, watching, and obsessing into two and a half glorious minutes, complete with music. This is, without a doubt, what youtube was invented for.*

If that dam removal video merely served to whet your appetite for dam busting, I have a few other videos you might enjoy. First, there’s there’s an excellent 8 minute documentary on Marmot Dam on the Sandy River, Oregon, which explains the science that led up to this removal, features the excitable Gordon Grant, and shows the action unfolding. If you just want to cut to the action, you can’t beat the “blow and go” (that would be the technical term) of the Condit Dam removal in Washington. Finally, a feature length movie called DamNation is coming our way in 2014. I’m so excited, I can hardly stand it. I’m going to go watch the videos a few more times.

*Youtube was also invented for flash flood videos, videos of people running rapids on the Grand Canyon, the Lake Peigneur disaster video, and corny videos produced by sewer districts about CSOs.

March Meanderings

Cross-posted at Highly Allochthonous

It all began at the end of February, when I travelled to La Crosse, Wisconsin to the Upper Midwest Stream Restoration Symposium, which was a really stimulating and vital mix of academics, consultants, and government folks all interested in improving the state of the science and practice of stream restoration. I gave a talk on Evaluating the success of urban stream restoration in an ecosystem services context, which was my first time talking about some hot-off-the-presses UNCC graduate student research, and I learned a lot from the other speakers and poster presenters. While the conference was incredibly stimulating, travel delays due to bad weather on both ends of my trip made for a somewhat grumpy Anne (nobody really wants to spend their birthday stuck in a blizzard in O’Hare), so I’ll be thinking carefully about how to plan my travel to the Upper Midwest during future winters. Nonetheless, the view from the conference venue was phenomenal.

icy river and snowy land

View of the Mississippi River from the Upper Midwest Stream Restoration Symposium in La Crosse, WI. Not shown: bald eagles that frequent the open water patches of the river.

March proper saw me give variations of the restoration talk two other times. On the 15th, I gave it as the seminar for Kent State’s Biological Sciences department, and on the 26th, I gave it at the North Dakota State University Department of Geosciences (more about that trip below). In between, I gave a seminar on the co-evolution of hydrology and topography to the Geology Department at Denison University in Granville, Ohio. Students in that department had just returned from a trip to Hawaii, and a very memorable dialogue occured in the midst of me talking about the High Cascades:

“You’ve seen a young lava flow. What would happen if you poured a bottle of water on it?” “It would steam!” “Not that young!”

Closer to home I also hosted a couple of prospective graduate students, helped interview candidates for a faculty position in our department, and went with a colleague to visit an acid mine drainage site about an hour to the south of Kent. In one fairly small watershed, we were able to tour a number of different remediated and unremediated sites, and it certainly lent a whole different perspective to the ideas of stream restoration and constructed wetlands to look at a landscape irrevocably scarred by mining activities.

Orange water flowing from a tube down a hill and into a stream.

Unremediated acid mine drainage flow directly into Huff Run. The orange is iron precipitate.

Wetland plants and a concrete inlet weir.

Constructed wetland as the second stage of acid mine drainage remediation in the Huff Run watershed.

At the end of the month, we finally got our turn for spring break. I ended up with a somewhat epic combination of mounds of work and a big trip to take, possibly the worst combination of the untenured and tenured professor spring break stereotypes (see this PhD comics strip). The first half of the week, I spent in Fargo, North Dakota, home to the famously flood-prone Red River of the North. (I’ve blogged before about why the river so often produces expansive floods.) It was truly fascinating to put my feet on the ground in a place that I’ve read about and watched from afar for years. And my visit was made all the more interesting by my host and guide, Dr. Stephanie Day, a geomorphologist newly at NDSU and who may well unravel some of the Red’s geomorphological peculiarities.

Scientist in foreground, river in midground, background = flat, snowcovered ground.

Stephanie Day, Assistant Professor of Geosciences at North Dakota State University beside the Red River in Moorhead Minnesota. The flat surface in the background is the approximate elevation of the land for miles around.

Looking towards downtown Fargo, ND from the river side of the levee.

Looking towards downtown Fargo, ND from the river side of the levee.

snow and ice covered river, not in much of a valley.

River’s edge view looking towards downtown Fargo. Snow well over knee deep here on 25 March, by my measurements. As all that snow starts to melt, the water will rise.

There’s a pretty good chance we’ll see a major flood on the Red River later this spring, as the >24″ of snow melts out of the watershed, runs off over frozen ground, and enters the northward flowing river. The Fargo Flood page is the place to go to follow the action, and you can count on updates (and more pictures) here as events unfold.

The latter half of my spring break saw me diagonal across the state of Minnesota to my beloved Driftless Area, back across the Mississippi River, and into the state of Wisconsin. I saw my family, finished paper revisions, and wrote part of a grant proposal. Then I flew home, with nary a weather delay in sight.

If March was a tight, recursive meander of talks and trips to the Upper Midwest, then April promises to be a bit anastomosing with lots of different threads woven together to make another month of scientific delight.

The Great Flood of 1913

The 100th anniversary of Ohio’s greatest disaster is just days away. This epic hydro-meteorological event utterly ravaged river towns from Illinois to Ohio and beyond, but it seems like the event has largely been forgotten in history’s annals. Even flood-obsessed me had lived in Ohio for a few months before I even began to piece together the full extent of the disaster. For a crash course in the events of March 23rd-27th, 1913, navigate through this Prezi:

If you want to know more, there’s lots of details at the Silver Jackets’ 1913 Flood website and you can follow along as historian Trudy Bell researches a book on the flood.

Anne’s November Navigations

Cross-posted at Highly Allochthonous

I’m not joining the exodus of geoscientists to AGU this week; I’m still recovering from November.

I’m not sure whether I spent more time in Ohio or outside of it last month. The month started with the rain and runoff from our brush with Superstorm Sandy, but by November 2nd I had a car packed full of conference and research gear and was heading south to North Carolina. The drive south was a great chance to watch all sorts of geology go by at interstate speeds. I started out in the glaciated Appalachian Plateau, drove south of the glacial limit, crossed the Ohio River, and was soon in the heart of the Appalachians and West Virginia‘s coal mining country. On Interstate 77, the border between West Virginia and Virginia seems to mark the dramatic transition the Valley and Ridge Province, then it is up on to the Blue Ridge and finally down the Blue Ridge Escarpment and into the Piedmont and North Carolina, finally arriving in Charlotte after eight hours of driving. Climatically, I left the cold and damp, drove through the snow left behind by Sandy, and ended up in the warm, sunny, and very dry south.

The Geological Society of America meeting was a busy time. I convened two sessions, helped lead a field trip and had more meetings for committees and with colleagues than I care to remember. But it was a great time to hear about exactly the sorts of science that I find most interesting and to get out in the field with 50 friends and colleagues to talk about new ideas in geomorphology.

  • Geomorphology of the Anthropocene: The Surficial Legacy of Past and Present Human Activities. We had an amazing slate of speakers that packed the room, fantastic poster presenters that drew a crowd, and we were able to announce that we will be editing a special issue of the new journal Anthropocene with papers from the session. Then the journal’s publisher threw us a special reception.
  • Hydrology of Urban Groundwater, Streams, and Watersheds. This session featured another roster of incredible speakers and a kick-ass set of posters featuring many of my students and colleagues from UNC Charlotte.
  • Kirk Bryan Field Trip: Piedmont Potpourris: New Perspectives on An Old Landscape (and Some of its Younger Parts. The annual syn-meeting field trip of the Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology division always features good scenery and intense but friendly discussions. This year we looked at an old mill dam site in an urban stream and channel heads and terrace soils near the Catawba River, and then we climbed a monadnock to talk about Blue Ridge escarpment retreat and the long term evolution of landscapes. Plus, we had a delicious lunch of NC barbecue on our able and charismatic field trip leader’s front lawn.

Missy Eppes atop a red soil pit.

Field trip leader Missy Eppes atop a typically red soil profile, on a terrace above the Catawba River.

50 geomorphologists on the front steps

An enthusiastic and well fed group of geomorphologists and Quaternary geologists on a delightful November day.

Geomorphologists on a rock listening to Ryan McKeon

On top of Crowders Mountain, learning from Ryan McKeon.

After the meeting was over, I stuck around Charlotte for a few days, with plans to do a tracer injection in one of my local field sites. As I’ve already shown you, that didn’t work out so well. So I headed back north.

Back in Ohio, I did some exploring of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which was timely given that I am just about to submit a proposal to do work in the headwater streams in and around the park. I also spent a wonderful day with someone from the Ohio EPA, looking at dam removal and stream restoration sites in the region.

Stream with sediment and trees

Headwater stream near Brandywine Creek, CVNP, November 2012.

My fun explorations of Ohio streams were tempered with sadness though. Just before Thanksgiving, my sweet, 14-year old canine companion, Cleo passed away. She was my longest running and most faithful field assistant, and I’ll miss her forever.

Dog meets spring

Cleo, in ~2005, at one of my PhD field sites.

But then it was off to Baltimore to visit with Claire Welty and the folks at the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education, who do some of the coolest urban hydrology work around. They also host the Baltimore Ecosystem Study field site.

Sign on door reads "Baltimore Ecosystem Study"

That was just the warm-up for the real reason for my trip, giving a seminar in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at The Johns Hopkins University. My talk was on “drainage network evolution is driven by coupled changes in landscape properties and hydrologic response,” in which I attempted to integrate the Oregon Cascades, North Carolina Piedmont, and urban landscapes. It was a thrill and an honor to give a Reds Wolman seminar at JHU, which is my undergraduate alma mater, and the experience was made even more memorable by a morning spent exploring stream restoration sites with Profs. Peter Wilcock and Ciaran Harman. We saw some sites that made some sense, and some that were a bit…non-sensical? I will come out and say it, I’m not a fan of what happened to the little granite pegmatite knickpoint where I went as an undergraduate to try to pretend I wasn’t really in the city. But a bit farther upstream, I could see the value in installing some nice structures that stabilized banks and increased accessibility to the stream in a park popular with joggers and dog-walkers.

JHU profs Wilcock and Harman discuss the restoration of Baltimore's Stony Run

JHU profs Wilcock and Harman discuss the restoration of Baltimore’s Stony Run

And that pretty much brought me to the end of November. I’m looking forward to no travel in December, at least until the end of the month. But that doesn’t mean I won’t stay busy.

An Ohio Geomystery

Cross-posted at Highly Allochthonous. There are some good comments there.

I had the good fortune of going out in the woods a few days ago with colleagues here at Kent State University. We were in a second growth forest, probably fairly typical for this part of northeastern Ohio. The upland forest had lots of maple trees, and the bottomland forests had cottonwood and sycamore. The forest is underlain by many meters of till (with silicic clasts) and below that are various sedimentary rocks. I was there to take a look at some small streams and wetlands as potential field and teaching sites. Towards the end of our tour, my colleague brought us past this site:

My first view of the geo-mystery

My second view of the geo-mystery

My colleague described the site as the ruins of a “sugar shack”, which I connected with the maple trees to mean that this was the foundation of a small-scale maple syrup or sugar production facility.

But what really caught my eye were the tabular black rocks, which seemed completely out of character for the region.

Close-up of the black rocks. Wading boot for scale.

So, I know what the black rocks are and I have a pretty good idea of why they are there, but I don’t know where they originated. I’d like to hear from our readers what they know or can deduce about these mysterious black rocks of northeastern Ohio, so share your thinking in the comments. I bet together we can get to pretty good story of the human history of these geopuzzling erratics.