Research Experiences for Undergraduates
Program in Water Research at 
Colorado State University

Students/Research Projects
1997

Student:   

Jason Alexander

Project Title:  

Monitoring bedload in the North Fork of the Cache la Poudre River, Colorado

Advisors:  

Ellen Wohl, Department of Earth Resources

Department of Earth Resources

On September 25-27, 1996, the abrupt release of about 7000 m3 of sediment from Halligan Reservoir caused extreme sedimentation in the North Fork of the Cache la Poudre River.  The sediment filled pools to depths of up to 3 m, and was deposited along the margins of riffles; an estimated 4000 fish were killed by the initial release, with more following.  Stepped discharges were released from the dam between Feb. 22 and July 8, 1997 in an effort to flush the sediment from the channel.  Measurement the relationship between flow competence and size distribution of bedload sediment shows that abundant sediment is transported out of the system.  Fine sediment remains shielded, however, in the interstices of cobbles and boulders.  A flood event with twice the power of this season's snowmelt will be necessary to entrain the cobbles and mobilize the sediment from armored reaches of the channel.

Student:  

Julie Hawkins

Major:  

Watershed science

Project Title:  

Evaluating surface flow paths in a subalpine wetland in the Loch Vale watershed, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Advisors:  

Jill Baron

Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory

Atmospheric pollution from the rapidly expanding population along Colorado's Front Range is threatening pristine mountain environments, such as the Loch Vale watershed in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Wetlands have the capacity to mitigate these effects by taking up excess nutrients and reducing the loading into adjacent water bodies.  To determine the capacity of a given wetland for remediate water quality, velocity and direction of water flow must be determined.  Bromide tracer studies show that water resides in Wetland C in the Loch Vale watershed for at least four hours.  Little bromide was detected leaving the system, suggesting that dilution may limit detection after four hours.  If this is the case, residence time for the nutrients may be longer, and the wetland may have considerable ability to remove nutrients.

Student:

Andrea McPherson

Major

Agricultural engineering

Project Title:

Heavy metal concentrations from mine drainage into California Gulch, Leadville, Colorado

Advisors:

Luis Garcia

Department of Chemical and Bioresource Engineering

An EPA database containing information on 22 segments of California Gulch were used to quantify input of heavy metals from a variety of sources along the stream.  A user interface was created to permit manipulation of the data provided by the EPA.  Field checks targeted potential point sources of contaminants, which were then correlated with changes in heavy metal concentrations or speciation, as indicated by the database.  Inflows from small tributaries draining mined areas, from a waste water treatment plant, the confluence with the Arkansas River, and a mine tailings area contribute to heavy metals in the gulch.

Student:

Anne Piper

Major

AgricGeology

Project Title:

Digital terrain analyses

Advisors:

Gustavo E. Diaz

Department of Civil Engineering

Digital Terrain Analysis (DTA) is one application of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software.  It allows representation and analysis of topography for such varied uses as weather prediction, correlation of geomorphology with underlying geology, or ecological population studies.  This work created a manual for transfer of digital terrain information, such as the common Digital Elevation Models available from the U.S. Geological Survey, to a GIS, and varied analytical and output tools for utilizing the data in other studies.

Student:

Matthew C. Ridge

Major

Biology

Project Title:

Effects of fertilization on soil microbial activity, Loch Vale Watershed, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Advisors:

Jill Baron

Natural Resources Ecology Laboratory

CO2 flux from sub-alpine soils in the Loch Vale Watershed, Colorado, were used to measure the uptake of nitrogen fertilization by nitrogen fixing microbes.  Comparison of six 0.1 ha fertilized and control forest plots did not consistently show increased microbial respiration on fertilized plots.  The results may have been complicated by the natural increase in soil gas flux during late spring snowmelt, when this study was done.  Soil temperature and moisture also need to be controlled for unambiguous interpretation of the CO2 flux data.

Student:

James Somerville

Major

Watershed science

Project Title:

The effects of dams and water diversions on riparian vegetation seed dispersal

Advisors:

Ellen Wohl

Department of Earth Resources

Hydrochoric seeds depend on various hydrologic and geomorphic conditions for dispersal in riparian habitats.  Damming rivers and regulating flows results in decreased discharge variability, reduced size and amount of transported substrate material, blocked conductance and altered flow of hydrochoric seeds, decreased maximum flow periods, increased periods of minimum flow, and elimination of natural flood events.  Baseline data were collected along six sites, three above and three below the Halligan Dam on the North Fork of the Cache la Poudre River.  Traps were set to capture seeds dispersed by air, along banks, from surface and suspended loads, and from bedloads.  Traps were sampled weekly, materials identified and separated, and dry sample weights recorded.  Hydrologic data, channel profiles and vegetation surveys were also taken at each site.  Detailed modeling and comparison of data over longer seasonal changes will be done in the future.

Student:

Mark Taylor

Major

Watershed science

Project Title:

Hydrologic effects of the Grand Ditch on Kawuneeche Valley, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Advisors:

Lee MacDonald

Department of Earth Resources

A cooperative project involving the National Science foundation, the National Park Service, and Colorado State University is examining the hydrologic and ecologic effects of water diversions through the Grand Ditch, on the west flank of Kawuneeche Valley, Rocky Mountain National Park.  Monitoring of subsurface water levels and flow directions over an 8-week period show a strong temporal correlation with the onset of summer diversions. Well-water levels dropped sharply after diversions began, in contrast to wells on the opposite side of the valley.  Subsurface water level declines resulted in changes in flow direction in some areas.  The ecologic effects of the hydrologic changes will be examined in future studies.

Student:

David Cline

Major

Civil engineering

Project Title:

Preliminary investigations of stream rehabilitation design templates

Advisors:

Chester Watson

Department of Civil Engineering ogy

Quantitative measures of multiple physical, biological, and chemical stream characteristics of selected stream systems were determined in an effort to develop templates that could be used to define thresholds or targets for stream rehabilitation and restoration projects.  Mr. Cline received experience in working with variables used to characterize several sand-bed, warm water streams in the upper Yazoo River basin located in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

Student:

William Folsom

Major

Natural resources management

Project Title:

Has treatment decreased heavy metal load in the Upper Arkansas River?

Advisors:

John Stednick

Department of Earth Resources

The project involved analysis of stream discharge and water quality data from various reaches on the Arkansas River to determine the effect of acid mine drainage treatment plants on heavy metal discharge rates.  Data from samples collected before and after the development of two treatment plants in the Leadville, Colorado area were compared to assess the impact of acid mine drainage treatment on water quality in the Arkansas River basin.

Student:

Scott Francis

Major

Civil engineering

Project Title:

Soil moisture variability and scaling properties

Advisors:

Jorge A. Ramirez

Department of Civil Engineering

Mr. Francis participated on several research projects directed by his advisor.  The primary emphasis of his research experience was the collection (via remote sensing) and analysis of soil moisture data from the Little Washita watershed in Oklahoma.  Spatial analyses of moisture content over time were conducted to determine the scaling properties associated with soil moisture variation.

Student:

Jeremy Franz

Major

Civil engineering

Project Title:

Soil moisture variability and scaling properties

Advisors:

Jorge A. Ramirez

Department of Civil Engineering

Mr. Franz also had the opportunity of participating on more than one research project.  One experience consisted of infiltration analysis and soil sampling at various sites within an irrigated field in the South Platte River basin.  The second experience involved conducting infiltration analysis and analyzing historic streamflow data from the Rio Puerco River basin near Albuquerque, New Mexico.  The results from this work will be used in the development of a sediment transport model for the basin.

Student:

Erik Holtz

Major

Soil science

Project Title:

Effect of acidic irrigation water on soils of the Alamosa River Basin, Colorado

Advisors:

Grant Cardon

Department of Soil and Crop Sciences

The project was conducted to evaluate soil impacts of acidic irrigation water in the Alamosa River basin in the San Luis Valley of Colorado where the abandoned Summitville Gold Mine has threatened water quality.  Soils in the basin were sampled and analyzed to determine if irrigation water was increasing extractable copper levels in soils.

Student:

David Mooney

Major

Civil engineering

Project Title:

Characterization of heavy metals in the San Juan River

Advisors:

John Stednick

Department of Earth Resources

The objective of the project was to characterize the impact of mining activity in the San Juan River basin in Colorado and New Mexico on heavy metal contamination of the river.  Water quality and streamflow data from USGS sampling and guaging stations throughout the basin during the period from 1969 to 1993 were used to estimate stream loading of heavy metals to determine relationships between mining sites and stream water quality.

Student:

Paul Olson

Major

Agricultural engineering

Project Title:

Apparatus to monitor pollution concentrations using microtitration techniques

Advisors:

Paul Ayers

Department of Chemical and Bioresource Engineering

The research involved designing a microtitration technique for the detection of lead in water samples.  The objective was to develop a safer and more portable water quality assay that would also be cheaper than existing methods.  The research identified a suitable diffusional technique and revealed problems with the proposed system of monitoring the reaction.

Student:

Melissa Schnier

Major

Wildlife biology

Project Title:

Beaver foraging behavior upon mature cottonwoods in regulated and unregulated arid riparian ecosystems

Advisors:

Ken Wilson

Department of Fishery and Wildlife Biology

The project investigated foraging behavior of beaver in regulated and unregulated streams to determine the impact of dam construction on habitat.  Stands of gallery cottonwoods on the Green and Yampa Rivers in Dinosaur National Monument were surveyed to determine magnitude of beaver foraging.  The results supported the hypothesis that dam construction on the Green River has decreased cottonwood regeneration rates because of the decline in riparian willow populations, which are the preferred sources of food.


Jorge A. Ramirez
Copyright 2001- Colorado State University. All rights reserved.
Revised: February 16, 2001