Fluvial Geomorphic Research at Western Carolina University


Research Areas
Heavy Metals|Stream Restoration|Sediment Generation and Transport




The term fluvial comes from the Latin word "Fluvius" meaning river. Broadly defined, geomorphology is the science that examines the shape, composition, and origin of landforms. Thus, fluvial geomorphology is essentially the study of rivers and the landforms that they create. It also includes a determination of the historical changes in river systems through a continuum of time scales ranging from a single flood event to millennia. At WCU, we use an understanding of how fluvial (river) systems function to solve various types of environmental problems. Of particular concern is the transport and fate of sediment- bound contaminants, particularly heavy metals released from historic and modern mining operations. We are also working the restoration and management of riparian habitats, which are strongly dependent on the physical environment. To adequately address these issues, it is generally necessary to combine detailed field studies with more quatitative numerical analysis including computer simulations. The Department of Geosciences and Natural Resources Management is well equipped to conduct both types of analyses. Field equipment includes a Lecia Total Station a variety of flow velocity meters, pressure transducers and data loggers for the detailed measurement of water stage changes, bedload and suspended sediment samplers, a Hydrolab for water quality analysis, and various types of infiltrometers. Numerical modeling can be performed on workstations equipped with HEC-1, HEC-RAS, RiverTools, and WinXPRO. Access to geographic information systems, including ARC/INFO, and various statistical packages are also available. In addition, the Department possesses a tree-ring laboratory for dendrogeomorphic and dendrochemical analyses.