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Courses : Syllabi : 483

Geography 483 Watershed Analysis


Dr. Trent Biggs

Course Description

Humans and ecosystems depend on and affect watershed processes that move water, sediment, and chemicals through a landscape. Watershed analysis describes and quantifies connections between natural landscape properties, human activities, and ecosystem services related to soil, water resources, and aquatic ecosystems. In this course students will learn procedures for watershed analysis with a focus on understanding the main processes that control water quantity, water quality, sediment transport, and aquatic habitat. A particular focus will be given to the effects of urbanization and fire on watershed processes in semi-arid climates. Field projects on campus and in Los Penasquitos Watershed will familiarize students with methods for measuring landscape properties, and the class project involves analysis of a watershed problem of interest to the student. While some technical skills will be covered, emphasis will be placed on critical understanding of conceptual underpinnings of the most widely used techniques and models. A major emphasis is placed on the critical use of simple calculations and observations to test working hypotheses about water, sediment, and nutrient flows though watersheds.

There will be at least two required field trips to Los Penasquitos Watershed. Times and dates TBA depending on student schedules.


Geography 101


Your grade in this course will be based on the following elements:

The culminating activity of the course is a comprehensive analysis of a problem in a watershed of the student's choosing. The paper will pose and address a question of interest to the student related to watershed analysis.

Books and Materials

Required: Environmental Hydrology, 2nd Ed. Ward and Trimble. 2004, CRC Press.
Recommended: Dunne and Leopold, 1978, Water in Environmental Planning.
Additional articles will be posted on Blackboard

Weekly Topics

Week Topic
Week One Intro to class
Watershed structure and delineation
Week Two HYDROL 1: Precipitation
Week Three HYDROL 2: Runoff processes, infiltration, SCS
Week Four HYDROL 3: Evaporation, soil moisture, vegetation and water yield
Week Five HYDROL 4: Stream discharge, floods
Week Six SED 1: Erosion; USLE
Week Seven SED 2: Sediment budgets; urbanization and sediment production
Week Eight SED 3: Channels, Stream restoration
Week Nine WATER QUALITY 1: Dissolved oxygen and nutrients
Week Ten WATER QUALITY 2: Heavy metals, toxics, pathogens
Week Twelve HABITAT 1
Week Thirteen HABITAT 2
Week Fourteen HABITAT 3
Week Fifteen Presentations

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