US Forest Service Research & Development
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  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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Sandra E. Ryan-Burkett

Sandra E. Ryan-Burkett

Research Geomorphologist
240 West Prospect Road
Fort Collins
United States

Phone: 970-498-1015
Fax: 970-498-1212
Contact Sandra E. Ryan-Burkett

Current Research

Research Interests

My primary research interests are on the geomorphology and sedimentation processes in steep mountain streams. Within this broad field I am interested in the influence of streamflow and sediment supply on sediment transport rates, channel processes, and variation in channel morphology. I work mainly in the subalpine environments of Colorado and Wyoming where streamflow is generated primarily by snowmelt.

Past Research

  • Characterizing and modeling bedload transport processes in coarse-grained stream channels
  • Refinement and verification of bedload measurement techniques
  • Assessing methods for measuring bedload, including comparing data collected with different types of samplers and the use of an underwater camera for monitoring bedload movement
  • Testing the feasibility of an acoustic sampler for detecting gravel movement in coarse-grained channels
  • Impacts of flow diversion on channel form and process


Why This Research is Important

Sediment production from headwater streams is a major control on downstream water quality, river processes, and aquatic habitat. Increased sedimentation is a concern due to its predicted sensitivity to environmental change. Past and on-going research on the relationships between forest loss, stream sediment loads and channel morphology shows that riverine landscapes can have inherently different sediment signals and responses following disturbance, depending on the nature of sedimentation and mass wasting processes and the relative sensitivity of watershed. In light of the current suite of beetle epidemics and their expected impacts on existing forest infrastructures, land managers are implementing streamside fuels reduction prescriptions to reduce hazards posed by dead timber along miles of riparian areas and perennial fish-bearing streams. Current and proposed research will help in developing guidelines for this activity.

Outcomes of the current research effort are improved understanding of the contribution of forest loss on erosion processes, the connectivity of streams to their sediment sources, and the ability of streams to recover from increased sediment loads following forest disturbances. Currently identifying funding opportunities to work with land managers in further defining the influence of various environmental changes on channel form and processes, including the influence of large wood on riverine characteristics.


  • State University of New York, Plattsburgh, B.A. Geography/ Environmental Studies 1983
  • Oregon State University, M.A. Physical Geography 1989
  • University of Colorado, Ph.D. Geography 1994

Professional Experience

  • Research Hydrologist/Geomorphologist, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station
    1994 - Current
  • Graduate Research Assistant, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR)
    1990 - 1994
  • Land Surveying Technician, National Park Service, Denver Service Center
    1984 - 1985

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Last updated on : 01/04/2021