Monitoring Plan for the Channel Morphology of Copeland Creek

By: Jordan DeSilva and Jasmin Perdue

The Plan

Channel Morphology of Copeland Creek–that was our task.  What did that mean?  What do we measure?  Where do we start?  Those were the thoughts racing through our minds upon our assignment.  The semester long project clearly began with research research research, which is always the most tedious task, but provided us with all the basis to develop our plan for monitoring the channel morphology, which if you don’t know is the  physical shape and geological composition of the creek channel. Our research led us to two monitoring protocols that we found relevant and decided to implement on the creek–cobble size distribution, which would lend us information about water velocities that may effect erosion rates; and creek cross sections, that would give us information to compare to future years in order to observe the ever changing channel.


The thought of counting hundreds of cobbles was nothing short of exciting. With calipers in hand, we walked the creek, surveying for an interesting spot. We laid down a transect line, and got comfortable, to record for what would be the next hour and half of rock measuring. Picking up rock after slimy, cold rock we measured the three axes of each rock. With aching backs, we finished measuring the final rock until we called it a day after finishing only one transect.


Data sheet for our cobble size monitoring © Jasmin Perdue


Jasmin measuring one of one many along a transect line. © Jordan DeSilva

The next day we marched back out to the creek, determined to finish the next two transects. Just when we thought cobble measuring couldn’t get any more exciting, it did! We had just laid out our second transect line when a swarm of Sonoma County Sheriffs came through, surveying the area for evidence concerning the murdered body recently found on campus.

Meeting with Michelle

Michelle Goman (who totally rocks!) came to our rescue when we realized we didn’t have a clue about what we were doing.  We walked into her office and this ray of sunshine whipped out all sorts of equipment in her tiny cubicle of an office, like she does this everyday of her life.


Practice with the auto-level equipment. ©Jordan DeSilva

She had us test out the equipment a couple of times and we all acted like we had the procedures down pact, but really we didn’t even begin to understand the foreign language she was speaking. When we finally got out in the field and realized we still didn’t know what we were doing, she came out to guide us through the process once again. Without Michelle, who knows if we would’ve gotten anything done!

Cross Sections

Oh man, did we have some problems with the cross sections. Thanks to Michelle it only took three days to figure out how to collect the surveying data, but there were more hurdles to come. Laying the transect lines meant that we had to have a straight path across the jungle of a channel that is completely dominated by Himalayan blackberry. This meant that we had to use loppers to cut back all the brush and blackberries in the way–that was fun!  Covered in cuts and scrapes and dirty as heck we managed to laugh our way through the struggle.

The paths were clear ,we knew what to do, and still no cigar. When we went to attempt a fourth time we realized that there was no way to secure the transect line on the opposite bank and that we needed help.  We went back to class, and with Caroline’s encouragement, we were able to recruit the lovely Amy and Danielle to help us hold the transect line secure and to help us record data. Ta-da! We had all the components for success finally. The four of us went out to the sites and busted out all three collections in roughly three hours.


A transect site that needed a lot of brush clearing. ©Jasmin Perdue


Jasmin reading the stadia rod through the auto level. ©Jordan DeSilva

The collections and struggles within them have secured in our minds that restoration ecology is no joke, but that with hard work and determination it can be done and the learning process is always interesting.


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