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Integrating student-led research in fluvial geomorphology into traditional field courses: A case study from James Madison University’s field course in Ireland

By
C.L. May
C.L. May
Department of Geology and Environmental Science, James Madison University, 800 S. Main Street, MSC 6903, Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807, USA
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L.S. Eaton
L.S. Eaton
Department of Geology and Environmental Science, James Madison University, 800 S. Main Street, MSC 6903, Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807, USA
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S.J. Whitmeyer
S.J. Whitmeyer
Department of Geology and Environmental Science, James Madison University, 800 S. Main Street, MSC 6903, Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807, USA
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Published:
December 01, 2009

The objective of the environmental science component of the James Madison University field course in Ireland is to provide students with opportunities to conduct original hypothesis-driven research. We use an exercise in fluvial geomorphology as a case example of the way students used field observations and basic principles demonstrated by faculty mentors to develop and test hypotheses about the formation and function of rivers. Specifically, students addressed two fundamental, and currently unresolved, questions: (1) Can the location of large gravel bars be predicted? (2) What controls channel width? Students also gained insight into foundational concepts in fluvial geomorphology by investigating the distribution of deposited sediments, and deciphering how past environmental conditions provide first-order controls on the morphology of a modern-day river channel. In addition to identifying important geo-morphic patterns, students gained useful skills in developing and testing scientific questions in a rigorous and data-rich manner.

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Contents

GSA Special Papers

Field Geology Education: Historical Perspectives and Modern Approaches

Steven J. Whitmeyer
Steven J. Whitmeyer
Department of Geology and Environmental Science, James Madison University, USA
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David W. Mogk
David W. Mogk
Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, USA
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Eric J. Pyle
Eric J. Pyle
Department of Geology and Environmental Science, James Madison University, USA
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Geological Society of America
Volume
461
ISBN print:
9780813724614
Publication date:
December 01, 2009

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