Current Research
My primary research focus is in watershed management, with an emphasis in stream and wetland restoration. Specifically, I focus on the influence of vegetation on flow dynamics, cohesive channel erosion, and pollutant transport through these systems. I am also interested in developing methods of protecting and restoring urban stream systems, through improved site design, landuse planning, and innovative best management practices.
Stormwater BMPs Image
Stormwater BMPs
Increases in impervious surfaces associated with urbanization change stream hydrology by increasing peak flows, stream flashiness and flood frequency, and degrade water quality through increases in sediment, nutrient, and bacteria concentrations. Kathy DeBusk evaluated the effectiveness of two urban stormwater best management practices (a bioretention cell and a CU-Structural Soil™ infiltration trench) on stormwater runoff rate and volume, and nutrient, sediment, and bacteria concentrations and loads. For more information visit the Stroubles Creek Watershed Stormwater BMPs webpage.
Hydraulic Resistance Image
Hydraulic Resistance due to Emergent Wetland Vegetation
Mitigation wetlands frequently fail due to incorrect water depths. Candice Piercy is evaluating models of flow through emergent vegetation to improve wetland design. She is also investigating the use of digital image analysis for the selection of model parameters based on vegetation properties and flow depths.
Streambank Retreat Measurement Image
Measuring Streambank Retreat
Streambank retreat contributes sediment to streams and impacts floodplain residents, riparian ecosystems, bridges, and other stream-side structures. Due to large spatial and temporal variability, measuring the contribution of streambank retreat to instream sediment loading is difficult. We are comparing load estimates from traditional measurements of retreat rates (erosion pins and topographic surveys) to measurements made with turbidity sensors.
Boundary Shear Stress Along Vegetated Streambanks
In addition to reinforcing streambank soils, riparian vegetation increases hydraulic roughness, reducing near bank velocities. Leslie Clark is determining methods for measuring boundary shear stress (BSS) along highly rough boundarys in the field. She is also evaluating the impact of vegetation type, form, and density on those stresses. Results of this research will lead to improved methods for estimating the contribution of streambank erosion to sediment loads.

Boundary Shear Stress Image
Suspended Sediment Sensor Image
Development of a Suspended Sediment Sensor
Because sediment transport has high temporal and spatial variability, continuous measurement in multiple spatial dimensions is necessary to fully understand stream dynamics and the impact of land use and channel modifications on stream health. Current sediment sampling techniques provide poor temporal resolution, are laborious and expensive, and produce significant error.

Working with researchers from Kansas State University, Barbra Utley is evaluating the use of a permitivity sensor for continuous monitoring of instream suspended sediment concentrations.