Fluvial Processes

A graduate level seminar in Fluvial Geomorphology – offered Fall 2016 at Kent State University.


Learning outcomes

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%)

Guidelines for research proposals.

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.

Course Readings

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)

Flow resistance and velocity variation lecture notes

Aside A: Post-Glacial Rivers (September 12-14)


Aside B: Methods in Fluvial Geomorphology (September 19-21)

including field trip to Jenning’s Woods, September 19

Sign up to be a class discussion leader

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.

Sediment transport lecture notes

Hydraulic Geometry (October 10-17)

Channel Morphology (19 October – 2 November)

Development of the longitudinal profile (7-14 November)

Drainage Basins, Sediment Yield, and Landscape Evolution (16-30 November)

Quaternary geology and geomorphology of the Cuyahoga River watershed