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To prepare for this lab activity, there are several preceding lectures on the basics of the hydrologic cycle, river systems, and sediment transport. We also introduce the watershed, including city maps of the land use in the area of the creek. Students read the relevant chapter in the textbook beforehand. Students collect the field data from the stream during the first week, and the second week focuses on teaching them to analyze the data, and to use spreadsheets to graph their results. A very detailed, formal report is handed in by each student at the culmination of the project. The field experience requires students to collect and analyze data from four different stations along a local, impacted creek system. At each location students measure velocity and cross-sectional area, which they use to calculate the stream discharge. Students also collect data on the sediments by sieving and weighing samples, which they later use to generate cumulative sediment distribution curves. Water quality collected at each site includes total coliform, turbidity, nitrate concentrations, pH, dissolved oxygen, and temperature. Students are required to discuss all of these factors in their final report, and to assess whether the data are 'as expected' from the lectures and the reading. In addition, students develop and test their own hypothesis about the system. For example, they might choose to investigate whether sites with higher flow velocities correlate with higher sediment sizes. This activity reinforces specific concepts about streamflow and sediment transport, and also illustrates how the field of geology contributes to our understanding of the interaction of humans and their environment.
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