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The Washington Research Foundation Fellowship

Dan Scott, Earth & Space Sciences, 2012-13 WRFF

Dan ScottI have been hiking and climbing in the Central Cascades my entire life. Though the evolution of the mountains always interested me, I never had the knowledge to critically think about how landscapes came to be until I began studying geology in my sophomore year. I quickly developed a strong curiosity for geomorphology. Through extensive hiking and exploration in the Cascades, I found myself most interested in streams, particularly the high gradient streams that shape the mountain landscapes I love.

I began my current project after talking to Dr. Dave Montgomery. With Dr. Montgomery's assistance, I was able to focus my broad curiosities into specific, field-oriented research into the nature of high gradient streams. My project aims to better understand the morphologic controls on high gradient streams. I hope to advance the understanding of both hydraulics and controls on bed morphology in step-pool streams, in order to better describe how such streams evolve.

My research experience has hugely influenced my undergraduate career. I believe it has made me a much more capable student, as it has helped me to think more critically about my studies. I am planning on attending graduate school next year, and I think my past research experience, particularly in dealing with the difficulties of designing and refining a project over time, has prepared me very well for graduate research.

I am very grateful to the Washington Research Foundation Fellowship for their support of my research. Because of the fellowship, I will be able to attend the American Geophysical Union Fall Conference this year in San Francisco and hopefully present my work at a major conference this Spring.

Mentor: David Montgomery, Earth & Space Sciences

Project Title: Controls on Channel Form and Sediment Sorting of High Gradient Streams

Abstract: Streams are characterized on a coarse scale by their channel form, and on a fine scale by how sediment is sorted on their beds, though the exact controls on these characteristics in high gradient streams are not fully understood. I seek to quantitatively examine the controls on these two characteristics in high gradient streams. Preliminary field observations have shown a correlation between channel confinement and channel form, though previous research has shown that woody debris also has a significant effect on channel form. I will conduct field surveys to measure woody debris and channel confinement to determine how each one affects channel form. To better understand controls on sediment sorting, I will examine how lithology affects sediment supply by comparing the results of lithologic surveys on two streams in the Cascades that are very similar in most respects except for their lithology. I will use step pools, a characteristic bedform of high gradient streams, to examine how sediment supply and stream power affect sediment sorting on the bed. I will compare pebble counts done in step pools of 7 streams in the Cascades to determine how lithology and stream power affect bed morphology. By quantifying both fine and coarse scale controls on high gradient stream morphology, I hope to move towards more rigorous modeling of high gradient channel evolution as well as better understand how habitat is distributed in a high gradient stream, as habitat location is strongly dependent on sediment sorting.