Sandy Stream Geomorphology

Sandy Stream Geomorphology
The Sandy Stream Study at Unity College 

Kevin Spigel and his geomorphology class student team conducted an environmental learning assessment of Unity’s nearby Sandy Stream.

Geomorphology is the scientific study of how landscapes change over time, and the processes that shape them. Using this as their premise for research, Kevin Spigel and his geomorphology class student team from the Earth and Environmental Science major conducted an environmental learning assessment of Unity’s nearby Sandy Stream. They looked at water flow and the deposits and landforms created by this flow and sampled a distance of approximately .33 kilometers (one quarter mile) to determine the stream’s geomorphic setting. 

Spigel and his team used various procedures and tools for their analysis of Sandy Stream’s physicality. Among them were:

  • Stream Corridor Survey. A tool to help environmental managers identify problems and prioritize restoration opportunities on a watershed basis.
  • Large Woody Debris Inventory. An inventory of the logs, sticks, branches, and other wood that falls into streams and rivers that can influence the flow and the shape of the stream channel.
  • Stream Gauging. A technique used to measure the discharge, or the volume of water moving through a channel per unit time, of a stream.
  • Wolman Pebble Count. A technique for evaluating grain-size distribution in riverbeds that helps geomorphologists understand flooding, sedimentation, and other physical impacts to a stream.
  • The Manning Equation. A calculation to estimate the average velocity of an openly flowing liquid (open channel flow). All flow in so-called open channels is driven by gravity.
  • Rapid Geomorphic Assessment (RGA). Helps to understand dominant channel processes and determine the degree of stability.

The results revealed that the stream has a state of “in adjustment”, and the information of their research allowed the team to determine how the stream is moving toward equilibrium. This assessment can be used in natural resource management, as well as academic professionals, in order to advise the public on the evolving status of Unity’s Sandy Stream.