Friday, April 24, 2009

Saving trees in an incised urban stream.

Cara and I spent a couple of days doing a geomorphic analysis of an urban stream in O'Fallon, Missouri (just west of St. Louis) last week.

This one is deeply incised into a Missouri River Pleistocene terrace and is threatening some houses. But is has one thing going for it -- a very nice old growth riparian corridor.

We'll be working with the City and Reitz & Jens in St. Louis to stabilize this creek, most likely with grade control structures, and hope to save most if not all of those trees.

Notwithstanding its typically complex urban geomorphology, this one is tricky and will require experience and careful analysis and planning. Do the residents value the trees? Does the City's public works department value them? Can we site the structures to avoid damage to valuable trees?

I find a lot of confusion about how grade control works in river management and hope to post on grade control theory and practice here soon.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

NASA's Earth Observatory 10th anniversary.

To quote BrianR over at Clastic Detritus, " If you don’t already have NASA’s Earth Observatory site in your reader or bookmarked somewhere, you should. "

I urge you to visit the site soon because, on a single web page, you can see the best fifty images they've published in the last 10 years, and vote for your favorite.

It's a stunning view. This week's collection features a beautiful image of a sediment plume entering the Gulf of Mexico.

Image here is an excerpt from a collection of agricultural patterns.

Friday, April 17, 2009

NSF MRI program and our Emriver Em4.

We are hoping that the National Science Foundation's Major Research Instrumentation program will be a good source of funding for our Emriver Em4 geomodels.

The models are mechanically and conceptually proven, and represent a very fertile base for further development, research, and teaching.

The last deadline for the program was January 2009, but NSF will, we understand, soon issue a special solicitation prompted by increased funding it received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. See this NSF special notice, and an excerpt:
The Foundation also expects to expeditiously award funds as specified in the Recovery Act for: the Math and Science Partnership program (funded at $25 million) [several other programs mentioned] NSF will post a solicitation this spring for the Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI) in order to make a sufficient number of awards to utilize the $300 million provided in the legislation. The Foundation currently anticipates that no other solicitations will be posted that are solely in response to the Recovery Act.

Here's a very fresh (April 2009) PDF presentation by Dr. Randy L. Phelps, the MRI Program Officer.

May 14 update: NSF has released the special MRI-R² solicitation.

May 28 update: NSF hosted a webcast on the MRI-R² and ARI-R² programs today; it's archived here.

Flood history films.

We ignore history at our peril, especially when it comes to flooding. I recently discovered a little known documentary about the 1993 Mississippi floods, and am working on a review for this blog.

In the meantime here's a wonderful source of historical footage, Quality Information Publishers. They have a huge catalog, and have assembled many of the old depression-era (insert joke about current depression here) documentaries into DVD sets. This is much better than tracking down and ordering individual films.

And the prices are very reasonable. Go there and enter "flood" into the search feature. A great resource.

Screenshot from one of the documentaries.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Michael Campana visits LRRD.

Michael Campana, Director of the Institute for Water and Watersheds at Oregon State University, was in Carbondale today to speak as part of the SIUC Center for Ecology's seminar series, and stopped by LRRD to see our models.

He introduced us to "Hydrophilanthropy" in his talk today, and has formed a nonprofit foundation dedicated to providing healthy water in developing countries.

I've followed his blog WaterWired for a while. It's very fresh, and today's post on his arrival in the Midwest ended with this quote from Cheap Trick's Robin Zander: "We're from Rockford, Illinois, but we've always thought international." I'd enjoyed the blog, and by its hip tone assumed a young author, and so was a little surprised to see a man who is, let's say, well past his thirties, walk into our lab this afternoon!

Michael had some great ideas for our river models and work, and we're grateful for his visit.

Here you see Michael with Cara and Mae Davenport, a friend and Assistant Prof. in the SIUC Department of Forestry.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Emriver Em2 at SIUC research gathering.

SIUC held its annual Research Town Meeting and Fair today, with distinguished speakers from NSF and NIH in the morning followed by poster sessions by SIUC researchers in the afternoon.

It was nice to get out of the office and be reminded of the distinguished scientific talent we have here in Carbondale. We set up an Emriver Em2 and greatly enjoyed talking about it and schmoozing with our collaborators.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Predicting floods. And the Dow Jones.

Two curves I'm watching now.

I'm sure there are plenty of insightful and witty things to say about this. Perhaps about heading warnings. Fundamental changes in systems? Maybe a commenter will help me out.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A nice summary of pseudoscientific thinking.

A very well done video essay on the nature of scientific inquiry, open-mindedness, beliefs, and pseudoscience. A lot of stream restoration is based on poorly-examined premise. Those assumptions often masquerade as science when public money is used. These assumptions aren't necessarily pseudoscience, because stream geomorphology and ecosystems are so complex we may never have true experiments on which to base management. So we don't have the science we need. But I see many of the flawed arguments mentioned in this video when I question certain beliefs about river analysis, classification, and restoration.

Neil Shubin's book: Your Inner Fish.

I recently finished Neil Shubin's wonderful book Your Inner Fish. It's one of the most engaging and fruitful reads I've had. Shubin was co-discoverer, in 2004, of the transitional Tiktaalik fossils on Ellesmere Island. As a paleontologist who's also well schooled in human anatomy, Shubin has a unique perspective on anatomy, geology, and evolution. I filled in a lot of gaps in my training with this read. It's dense enough that I found myself rereading some passages, but enjoyable and very accessible.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in evolution, especially if you also have an interest in anatomy, geology, or paleontology. (It might even be a good bet for the uncle who argues with you about evolution every Thanksgiving--Shubin does a wonderful job of covering the topics of favorite Creationist arguments while deftly leaving out mention of the controversy.) There are many good stories here, and among my favorites was the process by which Shubin and his collaborators chose the site where they, after much work and fruitless expeditions, eventually found Tiktaalik.

Nice Wikipedia site on Tiktaalik here; University of Chicago site (affiliated with Shubin) here. Illustration from NSF.