Posted by: Anne Jefferson | October 24, 2009

Hydrogeology and geomorphology: Notes from GSA Monday and Tuesday

This post is cross-posted at Highly Allochthonous. Please look over there for any comments.

Last week was the Geological Society of America meeting in Portland, Oregon. Just below is a view of Mt. Hood looking from the north, which I might have seen if I were not busy in and around the convention center the entire time. What follows are some brief notes from my activities on Monday and Tuesday of the conference.


On Monday morning, I attended a couple of talks and browsed the deserted poster aisles, since I knew I would be in a session all afternoon and unable to attend the designated poster time. Of the talks I attended, the one that sticks most in my mind was one by Karen Gran, who opened with an eloquent argument for why geomorphologists should care about the landscape evolution of very flat places, in her case, the Le Sueur River in southern Minnesota. Here the sudden base level drop triggered by the draining of Lake Agassiz down the Minnesota-Mississippi River system has triggered 11,000 years of knickpoint retreat and bank erosion that has been exacerbated by modern agricultural practices, such as tile drainage.

Monday afternoon I helped convene a session on “Stream-Groundwater Interaction: New Understanding, Innovations, and Applications at Bedform, Reach, and River Network Scales” sponsored by the Hydrogeology division. We had a great line-up of speakers, from undergraduate to professor, that are actively pushing our understanding of how streams and groundwater interact in environments from the hydropower-generating diurnally-fluctuating Colorado River in Austin, Texas (Bayani Cardenas, Katelyn Gerecht) to the possibility of modern recharge to the Great Artesian Basin in the center of Australia (Brad Wolaver working on the Finke River). We heard about a new smart tracer for quantifying the metabolically active transient storage (Roy Haggerty), radium as a tracer of groundwater inputs to the Sea of Galillee and North Carolina’s Neuse River (Hadas Ranan), electrical resistivity for mapping saline upwelling in Nebraska wetlands (Ed Harvey), and lots about using temperature as a tracer of groundwater-stream interactions (John Selker, Christine Hatch, Laura Lautz, Jeannie Barlow). We contemplate the effects of our common simplifying steady-state assumptions (Jesus Gomez) and marveled over a flume and numerical investigation of hyporheic exchange caused by a simple log (Audrey Sawyer). The questions from the audience were provocative and the conversations during our breaks were enjoyable and stimulating. It was my first time chairing a session, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the day it turned out.

Monday evening brought the usual round of alumni receptions and the geoblogger/tweeter meet-up. Much has been said about that elsewhere, but I’ll add that I greatly enjoyed making the acquaintance of so many interesting people and renewing my friendship with others. There were definitely a couple of small-world moments over the course of the evening, and I’ll hazard that it was the largest geoblogger/tweeter meetup on record. Shall we aim to break the record next year?


On Tuesday, I did not go to a single talk. There are no geomorphology sessions on Tuesday because of the Kirk Bryan field trip, and the hydrogeologists have no oral sessions because of their afternoon banquet. So I spent the morning over a wonderful breakfast with wonderful friends and attended the hydrogeology banquet almost immediately thereafter. In the late afternoon, I presented my poster and missed Kim’s talk and then meandered my way over to the Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology (QG&G) award ceremony and mixer.

Please don’t ask me to say who knows how to have more fun: the hydrogeologists or geomorphologists. All I’ll say is that singing was involved at one event and very clever photoshopping at another. At least one set of geologists believe it is perfect acceptable to receive a major professional award while wearing jeans and holding a beer.

For me, the single best highlight of the entire week was talking to Reds Wolman, my academic grandfather and undergraduate geomorphology professor. Reds is an amazing teacher, magnificent scientific mind, and a caring person who mentored many of the leading geomorphologists of the last half century. Though he’s gotten to be quite elderly, he attended much of the meeting and I got the chance to chat with him and hear his stories several times. I’ll also got to hear a very nice, if cheeky, tribute to him by Reds’ former student, John Costa, who was awarded the QG&G distinguished career award.

In my next post, I’ll finish out the meeting by talking about what happens when it rains a lot about this time of year and the mountains fall down. Plus, I’ll show some pictures of really big rocks.

This post is cross-posted at Highly Allochthonous. Please look over there for any comments.


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