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  • Writer's pictureAnabelle Fry

Two weeks of fieldwork in Colorado

This summer, I had the fantastic opportunity to help Global Rivers Group research streams and catchments in Ward, Colorado. I was fortunate to assist Carter Boyd, a Virginia Tech grad student in the group, with research for his project. We went to the Brainard Lake recreation area and measured many streams from a glacially-fed headwater catchment on the continental divide. This involved strenuous daily hiking along the lakes, creeks, and streams to map out plentiful streams around the area accurately.

Our days would start with suiting up in our waders and boots, going over a game plan, then hiking to the respective streams we planned to measure that day. First, we found a stream and counted our paces while walking up or down along the stream, then took a width measurement whenever we hit 10 meters. Carter and I divided the work into two roles during the measurement process. One person measured the streams, while the other recorded in the notebook and carried supplies. Hikers usually would spark conversation when seeing our work in the recreation area. Many people asked us if we were fishing, which was an entertaining conversation.

Something very different about Colorado than what I was used to (after being born and raised in Virginia) was the wildlife. The most common animal we came across was moose. When we first arrived at CU Boulder’s Mountain Research Station (where we stayed), a moose was near our parking spot. Our first day in the field was filled with moose, which we avoided to the best of our ability. There were so many moose encounters that we even had the person recording the measurements be on a “moose watch” to ensure no moose was in the path. Sometimes, a moose was near the stream we planned to study, so we had to change our plan and return to it later. It was a surprising part of Colorado that I never expected to be a concern.

Throughout my time helping with the research project, I learned the most about the formation and patterns of streams. As an undergrad, my focus is on Geophysics, precisely land motion, so it was nice to expand my field and learn about something new. My knowledge of hydrology was minimal before the trip, but now it sparks interest. My favorite part of the experience was drawing out the stream and branches on paper to create a map of all the streams that fed into a specific creek or lake. Visualizing the area on the paper after following a large stream or multiple small streams for a day was satisfying. I will forever value the time spent and the lessons learned during this research experience. I want to thank Dr. George Allen and Carter Boyd for this amazing opportunity to spend two weeks in Colorado and expand my knowledge of streams.

Anabelle Fry (right) is a senior Geosciences major at Virginia Tech. She is a field assistant in the Global Rivers Group.

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