College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

UM Scientists Conduct Research on Sediment in Rivers

The restoration flows on the Trinity River were joined this year by another significant event, the testing of a piece of leading-edge technology.

During the upcoming peak of the restoration releases in early May, a group of scientists from the Bureau of Reclamation (Denver) and the Center for Physical Acoustics at the University of Mississippi conducted research that involves testing of acoustical hydrophones as a potential emerging technology for monitoring of sediment transport in rivers.

Acoustical hydrophones are microphones designed for underwater recording or listening. They are typically used for finding submarines or listening to whale songs and not normally used for measuring sediment transport.

The Trinity River’s managed high-flow releases and sediment monitoring program make the Trinity a unique platform for outside researchers to test new technologies to measure sediment transport.

The Trinity River Restoration Program currently uses traditional methods for measuring sediment transport that are labor intensive, cost prohibitive, only provide a small number of samples, and require high risk work conditions. Surrogate technologies (like hydrophones) hold promise to provide safe, low cost, continuous sediment measurements and, if successful, would greatly benefit not only the Trinity, but the study and management of rivers around the world.

In 2006, a doctoral student at Penn State University experimented with using hydrophones to measure sediment transport in rivers based on the knowledge that as rocks roll down the river during floods, they hit each other and make a clanging sound. Results from the Trinity River indicated that hydrophone technology might be plausible as a new tool for measuring sediment transport.

The Bureau of Reclamation (Denver) recently secured funding through its Science and Technology grant program to further pursue the research and development of hydrophone technology to measure sediment transport. The research is a collaborative effort with the National Center for Physical Acoustics at the University of Mississippi. The new hydrophone technology is being tested in the laboratory and at two field sites located on the Elwha River in Washington, and the Trinity River. The Trinity River Restoration Program makes a non-monetary contribution to the project by sharing sediment transport data that is already collected during its current work processes.

“The Trinity River is not only a world-class fishery and recreation destination, but it’s also becoming known around the world as a center for science-based activity,” TRRP Executive Director Robin Schrock said. “It’s pretty exciting.”

from The Trinity Journal, Weaverville, CA