A graduate level seminar in Fluvial Geomorphology – offered Fall 2016 at Kent State University.
After completing this course, students will be able to:
- Qualitatively and quantitatively describe the ways that channel forms adjust in response to changes in the environmental controls operating upon river systems;
- Use field techniques and data analysis to describe and quantify fluvial form and process in pursuit of answering original research questions; and
- Read and interpret the scientific literature on fluvial geomorphology.
- Individual or Team Research Project (55%)
- Class Discussion Leadership (20%)
- Concise, critical readings synthesis papers (15%)
- Field trip and Water and Land Symposium participation (10%)
Topics Covered in this Course
1. Basic fluid mechanics and open channel flow
Aside A: Post-glacial rivers
Aside B: Tools and techniques in fluvial geomorphology
2. Sediment transport
3. Hydraulic geometry
4. Channel morphology
5. Sediment sorting and development of the longitudinal profile
6. Drainage basins, sediment budgets, and landscape evolution
Reading Material and Resources:
Readings will be available online or made available through the library. The following books are on reserve at the library (3 hour checkout):
- Leopold, Wolman, and Miller. 1964. Fluvial Processes in Geomorphology.
- Knighton, D. 1998. Fluvial Forms and Processes: A New Perspective.
- Dingman, S.L. 1984. Fluvial Hydrology.
- Middleton and Wilcock. 1994. Mechanics in the Earth and Environmental Sciences.
Kent State University Water and Land Symposium
October 5-6, 2016. Register here.
There will be 3 levels of reading for each topic. Required readings are required, and you will be expected to include them in your synthesis papers. These papers will be discussed in class and you need to come prepared for the discussions. Recommended readings will not be discussed in great detail in class, but will add a helpful depth of knowledge for each topic that will help with preparing for class discussion leadership, synthesis papers, and your research projects. Optional readings are other papers on the topic that I have found to be well-written, thought-provoking, and important or particularly interesting. I enjoyed reading them and I hope you will too. These papers may be helpful for your research projects as well.
1. Basic fluid mechanics and open channel flow (August 29-September 7)
Charlton. Chapter 6 and/or Knighton. p. 96-106.
Wicock and Middleton, Chapter 2. (review to the extent necessary for your understanding)
Nelson, J.M., J.P. Bennett, and S.M. Wiele, 2003, Flow and sediment-transport modeling, in Tools in Fluvial Geomorphology, edited by G.M. Kondolf and H. Piegay, pp. 539-576, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester. (through page 548. Don’t get bogged down in the math, but give it a try and pay attention to the concepts.)
Middleton and Wilcock. 1994. Chapters 9 and 11. Specifically, 296-317 and 365-393.
Photos/Video of Hydraulic Jumps at the US National Whitewater Center (a former field trip location)
1996), Estimating Local Bed Shear Stress from Velocity Observations, Water Resour. Res., 32(11),3361–3366, doi:10.1029/96WR02277.(
Aside A: Post-Glacial Rivers (September 12-14)
Thayer, J. B., Phillips, R. T., & Desloges, J. R. (2016). Downstream channel adjustment in a low-relief, glacially conditioned watershed. Geomorphology, 262, 101-111.
Gran, K. B., Finnegan, N., Johnson, A. L., Belmont, P., Wittkop, C., & Rittenour, T. (2013). Landscape evolution, valley excavation, and terrace development following abrupt postglacial base-level fall. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 125(11-12), 1851-1864.
Phillips, R. T. J., & Desloges, J. R. (2014). Glacially conditioned specific stream powers in low-relief river catchments of the southern Laurentian Great Lakes. Geomorphology, 206, 271-287.
2006), Glacial erosion, evolution of river long profiles, and the organization of process domains in mountain drainage basins of coastal British Columbia, J. Geophys. Res., 111, F01013, doi:10.1029/2005JF000358., and (
2007), Glacially induced organization of channel-reach morphology in mountain streams, J. Geophys. Res., 112, F03013, doi:10.1029/2006JF000741., and (
Belmont, P., Gran, K. B., Schottler, S. P., Wilcock, P. R., Day, S. S., Jennings, C., … & Parker, G. (2011). Large shift in source of fine sediment in the Upper Mississippi River. Environmental science & technology, 45(20), 8804-8810.
- Southern Minnesota is geomorphologically exciting. Anne’s roundup of video and writing about the formation of the Minnesota River Valley, knickpoint retreat, and terraces.
Aside B: Methods in Fluvial Geomorphology (September 19-21)
including field trip to Jenning’s Woods, September 19
Identifying Bankfull Stage in Forested Streams in the Eastern US (45 minute video, please watch before Monday’s field trip)
Wolman, M.G. 1954. A method of sampling coarse river bed material. EOS, Transactions American Geophysical Union, 35(6), 951-956. (please read before Monday’s field trip)
Harrelson, Cheryl C; Rawlins, C. L.; Potyondy, John P. 1994. Stream channel reference sites: an illustrated guide to field technique. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-245. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 61 p.
Tarolli, P. (2014). High-resolution topography for understanding Earth surface processes: opportunities and challenges. Geomorphology, 216, 295-312. (please read for Wednesday’s discussion)
Roering, J. J., Mackey, B. H., Marshall, J. A., Sweeney, K. E., Deligne, N. I., Booth, A. M., … & Cerovski-Darriau, C. (2013). ‘You are HERE’: Connecting the dots with airborne lidar for geomorphic fieldwork. Geomorphology, 200, 172-183. (please read for Wednesday’s discussion)
Video demonstrating principles and application of structure-from-motion
Of the 5 remaining themes of the course, remember that you need to lead a discussion of a paper related to 2 themes. You will write critical synthesis papers on the other 3 themes.
Sediment Transport (September 26-October 5)
Critical synthesis papers due: October 7, 5 pm.
(for Monday 9/26) Charlton, Chapter 7.
(for discussion 9/28) Wilcock, P. R. (1998). Two-fraction model of initial sediment motion in gravel-bed rivers. Science, 280(5362), 410-412.
(for 9/28) Andrews, E. D. (1983). Entrainment of gravel from naturally sorted riverbed material. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 94(10), 1225-1231.
(for 10/3) Buffington, J. M., & Montgomery, D. R. (1999). Effects of hydraulic roughness on surface textures of gravel?bed rivers. Water Resources Research, 35(11), 3507-3521.
Wilcock, P. R. (2001). Comment on “Effects of hydraulic roughness on surface textures of gravel?bed rivers” and “Effects of sediment supply on surface textures of gravel?bed rivers” by John M. Buffington and David R. Montgomery. Water Resources Research, 37(5), 1525-1526.
Millar, R. G., & Rennie, C. D. (2001). Comment on “Effects of hydraulic roughness on surface textures of gravel?bed rivers” by John M. Buffington and David R. Montgomery. Water Resources Research, 37(5), 1527-1528.
Buffington, J. M., and D. R. Montgomery (2001), Reply [to “Comment on ‘Effects of hydraulic roughness on surface textures of gravel-bed rivers’ by John M. Buffington and David R. Montgomery”], Water Resour. Res., 37(5), 1529–1533, doi:10.1029/2000WR900414.
Godsey, S. E., Kirchner, J. W., & Clow, D. W. (2009). Concentration–discharge relationships reflect chemostatic characteristics of US catchments. Hydrological Processes, 23(13), 1844-1864.
Dietrich, W. E., Kirchner, J. W., Ikeda, H., & Iseya, F. (1989). Sediment supply and the development of the coarse surface layer in gravel-bedded rivers. Nature, 340(6230), 215-217.
Sklar, L. S., & Dietrich, W. E. (2004). A mechanistic model for river incision into bedrock by saltating bed load. Water Resources Research, 40(6).
Scheingross, J. S., Brun, F., Lo, D. Y., Omerdin, K., & Lamb, M. P. (2014). Experimental evidence for fluvial bedrock incision by suspended and bedload sediment. Geology, 42(6), 523-526.
Hydraulic Geometry (October 10-17)
Required Readings (for Discussion)
Charlton, p. 117-129
(for discussion 10/10) Leopold, L. B., & Maddock Jr, T. (1953). The hydraulic geometry of stream channels and some physiographic implications. USGS Professional Paper No. 252.
(for discussion 10/12) Wolman, M. G., & Miller, J. P. (1960). Magnitude and frequency of forces in geomorphic processes. The Journal of Geology, 54-74.
(for discussion 10/17) Wohl, E. (2004). Limits of downstream hydraulic geometry. Geology, 32(10), 897-900.
Wolman, M. G., & Gerson, R. (1978). Relative scales of time and effectiveness of climate in watershed geomorphology. Earth surface processes, 3(2), 189-208.
Ferguson, R. I. (1986). Hydraulics and hydraulic geometry. Progress in Physical Geography, 10(1), 1-31.
Gleason, C. J. (2015). Hydraulic geometry of natural rivers A review and future directions. Progress in Physical Geography, 0309133314567584.
Shen, C., Wang, S., & Liu, X. (2016). Geomorphological significance of at?many?stations hydraulic geometry. Geophysical Research Letters, 43(8), 3762-3770.
Channel Morphology (19 October – 2 November)
Required Readings (for Discussion)
(October 19) Murray, A.B. and C. Paola, 1994, A cellular model of braided rivers, Nature, v. 371, p. 54-57.
(October 24) Braudrick, C. A., Dietrich, W. E., Leverich, G. T., & Sklar, L. S. (2009). Experimental evidence for the conditions necessary to sustain meandering in coarse-bedded rivers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(40), 16936-16941.
(October 26) Grant, G. E., Swanson, F. J., & Wolman, M. G. (1990). Pattern and origin of stepped-bed morphology in high-gradient streams, Western Cascades, Oregon. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 102(3), 340-352.
(October 26) Lewin, J., 1976. Initiation of bed forms and meanders in coarse-grained sediment, Bull. Geol. Soc. Amer., v. 87, p. 281-285.
(October 31) Walter, R. C., & Merritts, D. J. (2008). Natural streams and the legacy of water-powered mills. Science, 319(5861), 299-304. + responses and perspectives (provided on Blackboard)
(for 2 November) Schumm, S.A., 1973. Geomorphic thresholds and complex response of drainage systems. In: Morisawa, M. (Ed.), Fluvial Geomorphology. New York St. Univ. Pub. Geomorph, Binghamton: 299– 310.
Wolman, M.G. and Leopold, L.B., 1957. River flood plains: some observations on their formation, U.S. Geol. Surv. Prof. Paper 282-C, p. 89-109.
Tal, M., & Paola, C. (2007). Dynamic single-thread channels maintained by the interaction of flow and vegetation. Geology, 35(4), 347-350.
Hudson, P. F., & Kesel, R. H. (2000). Channel migration and meander-bend curvature in the lower Mississippi River prior to major human modification. Geology, 28(6), 531-534.
Flow around meander bends. OCW notes from Kelin Whipple.
Development of the longitudinal profile (7-14 November)
Required Readings (for Discussion)
(for 7 November) Pazzaglia, F. J., Gardner, T. W., & Merritts, D. J. (1998). Bedrock fluvial incision and longitudinal profile development over geologic time scales determined by fluvial terraces. Rivers over rock: fluvial processes in bedrock channels, 207-235.
(for 14 November) Crosby, B. T., & Whipple, K. X. (2006). Knickpoint initiation and distribution within fluvial networks: 236 waterfalls in the Waipaoa River, North Island, New Zealand. Geomorphology, 82(1), 16-38.
(for 14 November) Morisawa, M. (1964). Development of drainage systems on an upraised lake floor. American Journal of Science, 262(3), 340-354.
Mackin, J. H. (1948). Concept of the graded river. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 59(5), 463-512.
Chorley, R. J. (2000). Classics in physical geography revisited. Progress in physical geography, 24(4), 563-578.
Drainage Basins, Sediment Yield, and Landscape Evolution (16-30 November)
Required Readings (for Discussion)
(for 16 November) Montgomery, D. R., & Dietrich, W. E. (1992). Channel initiation and the problem of landscape scale. Science, 255(5046), 826.
(for 21 November) Molnar, P. and England, P., 1990, Late Cenozoic uplift of mountain ranges and global climate change- chicken or egg, Nature, v. 346, p. 29-34.
(for 28 November) Ferrier, K. L., Huppert, K. L., & Perron, J. T. (2013). Climatic control of bedrock river incision. Nature, 496(7444), 206-209.
(for 30 November) Larsen, I. J., & Lamb, M. P. (2016). Progressive incision of the Channeled Scablands by outburst floods. Nature, 538(7624), 229-232. + Perron, J. T., & Venditti, J. G. (2016). Earth science: Megafloods downsized. Nature, 538(7624), 174-175.
Quaternary geology and geomorphology of the Cuyahoga River watershed
- Surficial Geologic Map of the Cleveland South Quadrangle (includes Portage, Summit, and Cuyahoga Counties)
- Surficial Geologic Quadrangle mapping status for the State of Ohio
- Bauer, A., Nicoll, K., Park, L., & Matney, T. (2004). Archaeological site distribution by geomorphic setting in the southern lower Cuyahoga River Valley, northeastern Ohio: Initial observations from a GIS database. Geoarchaeology, 19(8), 711-729.