Thursday, October 22, 2009

GSA in Portland Thursday

Wow, what to say about GSA this year? It was a great meeting for LRRD, we made many new friends and people flocked to our booth and praised the Emriver Em2 there. This makes the hard work of running a business worth it, and reminds me why we do it.

Janine Castro stopped by for a long talk--she's a main organizer of River Restoration Northwest. Last year we donated an Em2 for use in that workshop, at Portland State University, and by other users, and borrowed it back for the meeting.

There's so much interest in our models, but we hear the economic reality again and again: "I'd love to have one. Maybe by next year." Budgets are in bad shape.

Kate (my wife), Cara, and I worked very hard on this meeting, with support from the rest of LRRD, and it was quite a success.

On Monday night we had quite a meeting of geobloggers, very well documented by Callan at the NOVA Geoblog. Many thanks to him. It was wonderful to meet Callan (who's a new Emriver owner), BrianR, who's helped me with contacts in the geology research community, and others in person. A super interesting group. The photo above features Jim, Anne, and Kim (L-R). I can't identify the others. Callan has a great photo up. He has a lot of energy! Anne co-writes the ScienceBlogs geoblog Highly Allochthonous.

Kate and I are having a great time in Portland taking a couple of days off, our first in a long time. We've had a blast just walking around the City, and of course visiting Powell's. We're both serious bookworms. Kate spotted a book on geomorphic techniques that included a whole chapter on scale modeling; a nice addition for my current research. Tomorrow we head up the Columbia River Gorge, which I've never seen, to Hood River.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

GSA in Portland Sunday

Wow, what a day. It began very early, with a couple hundred geologists waiting at the Pioneer Square stop for a train that took an hour to arrive; with a talk at 11, I had plenty of slack, but others had to scramble for cabs. Somebody forgot that not many people want to ride around downtown before sunup on Sunday morning!

My talk on use of plastic media in models went well I think. Doing it led to my understanding the benefits of plastic media much better, and lots of attendees echoed my statement that "quartz sand destroys things." That's one of the reasons a lot of homebrew stream tables fall into disrepair; the pumps and other moving parts are ruined by sand.

Callen Bentley, of NOVA Geoblog (and Emriver Em2 owner) made a point of snagging me after my talk and showing off his LRRD hat. Very nice of him.

Afterwards I met with Pete Klingeman of Oregon State. Pete oversees the Em2 model we donated to RRNW last year, and they were kind enough to loan it to us for this conference; Pete did us the huge favor of delivering it.

We were swamped at the exhibit during the first night happy hour. I don't think 30 seconds passed without a visitor. It's so cool to see the bright young faces of students, and see them dig the model so much. A lot of interest from faculty, and plenty of compliments. Positive vibes that make all the hard work worth it.

Last night I shared an elevator with Reds Wolman; a brush with geomorphological greatness.

Cara arrives to night and my wife Kate later tomorrow, we'll have a great meeting.

Friday, October 16, 2009

GSA in Portland

I leave tomorrow for Portland and GSA. BrianR at Clastic Detritus has a thorough set of links, including info on a geobloggers get together Monday night.

We'll have a booth there with an Emriver Em2. We're all pretty psyched--we expect to see a lot of collaborators and friends we've made in the last couple of years.

I'm giving a talk about use of thermoset plastic media on Sunday morning at 11 in the Geoscience Education session. We were dinged a bit in an NSF proposal, and I paraphrase, "if this plastic media's been around for a decade, how come it's not more widely used?" Perhaps because nobody's ever given a talk at a major geoscience conference on it, so here goes.

I hope to have a little fun using Godzilla movie footage to talk about hydraulic similitude and how we scale moving water and sediment down. If you're there, you'll be able to bore your friends with a description of Reynolds number and how it explains why Godzilla's water-based battles look especially fake.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Stereo photography in geoscience education.

Fuji just released a new 3D digital camera. I think this is the first such consumer grade digital system. We'll see how this camera works out, but others will follow, and this is great news for geoscience education.

Until now (or if you used one of the many old film-based stereo systems), you needed two cameras and a synchronization system. You can use a sliding camera, but anything that moves (e.g. water and sediment in a river model) won't be correctly rendered. So an all-in-one system like Fuji's is welcome.

We've been working on stereo photography, both for the Geowall system and for Close Range Photogrammetry (CRP). This photo (click on it for a high resolution version) is a quick sliding camera shot I took to display on Saint Louis University's Geowall system. We hope to develop a simple system for students to capture morphology in their Emriver Em4 for later display on the Geowall.

This month I talked with Neffra Mathews, a researcher who works for the BLM in Denver, about CRP. She's done some amazing work with it and was kind enough to give me a one hour phone tutorial. More on CRP later, but we're hoping that with a simple digital camera-based stereo system we can capture images of our river models that are useful both for stereo viewing and for measurements of topography that are at least good enough for student training.

The possibilities for our river models are endless. Time sequence capture of changing fluvial morphology without the hassle of multiple cameras and complicated software makes this technology accessible for student use. Very exciting stuff.

Thanks to the NY Times, article here.

UPDATE: The Fuji is not a camera I'd run out and buy based on early reviews.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

John Stewart on western water.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Where the Riled Things Are
Daily Show
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Political HumorRon Paul Interview

From the only place to go on television (via the Internet) for a straight story, a hilarious skewering of Sean Hannity, whose argument Stewart sums up thus:
The government should stop meddling in the business of the farmers, who would actually still be living in a desert if not for government meddling.

A well-spent seven minutes--the bit at the end doesn't make sense at first, but stick with it.

Via WaterSISWEB, thanks.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Recipe for a river; more on the Braudrick flume study.

More on the Braudrick et al. work published last week: NPR's Science Friday made a nice little video, in which Bill Dietrich used the phrase "recipe for a river." Click on the image above to see it.

The recipe includes two sizes and densities of sediment, one quartz sand and the other plastic. And stopping the run no less than eleven times to replant alfalfa outside the bankfull channel, then waiting 7-10 days for it to grow.

After reading the paper and the suppliments in PNAS, I have a lot of questions. Two authors have replied to emails I sent (thanks), but I don't have the details yet. I'm most interested in why both lithic and thermoplastic media were used, and suspect its because plants don't grow well in the plastic media, something we've tried.

This work is very exciting for us because we've recently developed our big Em4 model for just this kind of research, and I'm giving a talk on thermoset plastic media at GSA-Portland in a couple of weeks.

Here's video of an Emriver run we made in 2007. After setting conditions to simply visualize meander initiation from a straight channel, and getting the video we wanted, we cranked up the flow and injected dye to make interesting patterns. Strictly for fun. The patterns we got are sort of the opposite of what Braudrick et al. were looking for--a highly braided channel. Those guys were looking for a single thread channel with point bars connected to the floodplain.

I might argue such rivers aren't as common as we'd like to believe, and lots of gravel bed rivers tend more towards a braided form. But that's for another post.

UPDATE: This technical memo by Bill Dietrich for Stillwater Sciences covers details of modeling efforts leading up to the Braudrick paper.

UPDATE: A nicely done news article by Phil Berardelli in Science, with quotes from the authors and David Montgomery.