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This field activity focuses on stream dynamics and urban development. The field site is a local, wadeable urban stream and the activity, including transportation, can be completed during a 3-hour lab session. At the field site, a sketch of the stream reach is drafted by each student. This sketch includes a visual representation of the stream channel and banks as well as written observations, such as the amount of riparian vegetation, evidence of erosion and type of stream sediment. In small groups, students then determine stream velocity and cross-sectional area at the site, and calculate stream discharge (Q= velocity x cross-sectional area). In the field, there is discussion of the causes of changes in stream discharge (change in input/output), the relationship between the factors in the stream discharge equation (channel dimensions, velocity) and the effects of urban development on streams. After the field trip, given a topographic map of the area, students delineate the stream's watershed boundary. Students analyze the satellite image of the watershed to determine land use patterns. Students use online USGS data to draft a storm hydrograph and determine lag time for this stream after a rain event (video and photos of this stream at normal and flood stage are posted on the class website). The students also compare data from a stream in a nearby national forest during a similar storm event, noting differences in the storm hydrograph and lag time.
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