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In this assignment students receive six air photos of a 4 km stretch of Fountain Creek in El Paso Country, Colorado (38.7 N, 104.715 W) taken between 1989 and 2006 and are asked to evaluate and discuss how Fountain Creek has changed through the years. The main nuts and bolts of the assignment are an analysis of these repeat air photos and production of a map that depicts how the course of the river (or its cut-banks, point bars and bank-to-bank width) changes through time. To make this map, students can use trace paper/Mylar, or software such as ArcGIS or Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, but whatever their method they use they need to be able to establish a scale allowing them to measure and calculate rates of change. What change to quantify is purposely left open ended - students typically focus on measuring rates of cut-bank erosion, point bar migration, bank-to-bank width changes, channel length or sinuosity variation over the prescribed study area - and is usually linked directly to what they decide to map, such as the course of the river or the extent of the 'active' channel. After producing their map and making measurements, the final part of the assignment is synthesis. In the final questions, students are asked to summarize and describe in words what's happening to the channel through time, with reference to their map and calculations, and to consider the environmental conditions that are driving the changes observed.
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