Swimming through Week 2

Last week, we went on two exciting excursions in class. We first visited a local river – the Arkansas, down in Pueblo. Again donning our waders and looking awesome, we took measurements and talked about stream dynamics. It was a cold, rainy day, which made sticking your arms in to grab pebbles fairly unpleasant.

From the data collected that day, we compared different sections of stream for their gross primary production to community respiration ratios. Many hours were spent grappling with Excel, and I’m reasonably sure that everyone in the class found different answers.

On Thursday, we went to the CC Cabin with the Geomorphology class! It was a funny field trip in more ways than one – we had class in a stream, on a porch, and in a thunderstorm.

Paige notices me taking a picture while everyone else settles in for a porch lecture at the CC cabin.

With the Geomorph students, we discussed how fires affect streams and landscapes. We explored the burn scar from the 2002 Hayman Fire near Woodland Park, an area that still has ongoing repercussions from the fire which affect water flows and geomorphology. We looked at sediment transport, old stream channels, alluvial fans, and a place where you could see the black charcoal layer of soil underneath new deposits of sediment from erosion and flooding. We spent time discussing nutrient response to fires, deciding how certain features were made, calculating past stream discharge and power, and the future for the area.

Our class, with the Geomorphology class, learning in a stream!
The top of an alluvial fan in the Hayman burn scar, where water from large precipitation events created this streambed.

It was an incredible place to be, since fires in Colorado are a prevalent issue and the effects on the sediment transport and fluvial systems will continue for years in every burned landscape.

Crossing the stream, led by Natalie.