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Grad student talk - Landslides, gophers, & other hillslope-process related fun on the Front Range

Thursday, March 20, 2014, 4:30PM - 5:30PM


Eric Winchell


ARC room 248

On montane hillslopes of Colorado’s Front Range, the transport of soil by gophers can dominate the modern geomorphic system in meadows.  Data collected during a summer 2013 field campaign inspired a numerical model of gopher-mediated transport of soil and the long-term evolution of the coupled ecological-geomorphic processes. These processes include gopher mound development, gopher excavation and tunnel development, hillslope micro-transport processes, vegetation-triggered mound cohesion, and ungulate trampling.  Preliminary results from the model capture the essence of these geomorphic-ecological feedbacks and can readily address the role of gophers in limiting the encroachment of trees into meadow patches. We further aim to extend this model to investigate the formation of mima mounds.

This talk will also cover research motivated by the impressive response of a diverse set of landscapes within Colorado’s Front Range to the very rare storm and flood events that occurred from September 9-13, 2013, which included a 1000-year precipitation event. This investigation aims to understand how this ‘once in a lifetime’ storm interacted with several landscape types, ranging from a low relief region directly below the Rocky Mountain glacial limit to a prominent sandstone hogback where the Great Plains meet the mountains, to trigger a plethora of shallow landslides.