The North Fork Toutle River Valley

November 30, 2012, by Tim Meadows

A day in the life of a Geographer… Tim Meadows

I’ve now entered the third and (hopefully) final year of my PhD and time is flying by. I’m not sure how there are only two weeks to go until the end of the first term but one thing that is for certain is that there’s a fair bit to get done before Christmas. The majority of my time in recent weeks has been spent analysing the results of a suite of model runs that I’ve conducted using the CAESAR landscape evolution model. Identifying the best technique for evaluating the model in the context of observed geomorphological change in the North Fork Toutle River valley has proved a significant but nonetheless interesting challenge, and I’m hopeful that what I’ve done should yield some fairly interesting results. On the whole, indications are that the model is performing reasonably well and this gives me some confidence that I can use the model to make some predictions of possible future landscape change, and this is the next step that I’ll be focusing on in the coming weeks and months.

A key aspect of the next phase of my research is to develop a forecast flow series that I can use to run the model into the future. This has led me into the slightly confusing (to me at least) world of global climate and hydrological modelling, with a variety of acronyms and terminology that is pretty unfamiliar. Fortunately, I’ve enlisted the help of Katie Smith, a fellow PhD student working on global hydrology modelling, to guide me through this maze. Now that I understand what’s going on slightly better, I should be well placed to crack on with my future simulations over the Christmas break. In recent supervisions, the subject of ‘writing up’ has been tentatively mentioned a few times. I know I’m a little way off this stage at the moment but it’s definitely something that I’ll have to start thinking about more seriously fairly soon.

This period of my PhD is mostly associated with number crunching and a lot of my time is, sadly, spent behind the desk in my office. My chance to get into the field this weekend on the second year River Channel Forms and Dynamics trip to Porlock in Somerset was unfortunately scuppered by a combination of bad weather and impending coursework deadlines for the students. It would’ve been great to have a few days wading in rivers, but at the same time this weekend does look set to be quite cold so maybe I shouldn’t complain too much! Fortunately, my opportunity to mix things up a bit will come next week when I’ll be taking the third set of practicals for the same second year Rivers module. The practicals give the students the opportunity to learn about different aspects of river channel dynamics in a more hands-on way, and topics covered include flow regimes and the development of bedforms. Next week we’ll be thinking about the initiation of sediment motion and putting Bagnold’s bedload transport equation through its paces in the flume. Teaching is something that I’ve enjoyed doing throughout my PhD, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the practicals again next week.

All the best,

Tim

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