You are here

Sandra E. Ryan-Burkett

Sandra E. Ryan-Burkett

Research Geomorphologist

Address: 
240 West Prospect Road
Fort Collins, CO 80526
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.

Education

  • 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 to present

    Graduate Research Assistant, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR)
    1990 to 1994

    Land Surveying Technician, National Park Service, Denver Service Center
    1984 to 1985

    Featured Publications

    Publications

    Anthony, R. E.; Aster, R. C.; Ryan-Burkett, Sandra E.; Rathburn, S.; Baker, M. G., 2018. Measuring mountain river discharge using seismographs emplaced within the hyporheic zone
    Miller, Sue; Rhoades, Charles C.; Robichaud, Pete R.; Ryan-Burkett, Sandra E.; Kovecses, Jen; Chambers, Carl; Rathburn, Sara; Heath, Jared; Kampf, Stephanie; Wilson, Codie; Brogan, Dan; Piehl, Brad; Miller, Mary Ellen; Giordanengo, John; Berryman, Erin; Rocca, Monique, 2017. Learn from the burn: The High Park Fire 5 years later
    Rathburn, Sara L.; Shahverdian, Scott M.; Ryan-Burkett, Sandra E., 2017. Post-disturbance sediment recovery: Implications for watershed resilience
    Cotrufo, M. Francesca; Boot, Claudia M.; Kampf, Stephanie; Nelson, Peter A.; Brogan, Daniel J.; Covino, Tim; Haddix, Michelle L.; MacDonald, Lee H.; Rathburn, Sarah; Ryan-Burkett, Sandra E.; Schmeer, Sarah; Hall, Ed, 2016. Redistribution of pyrogenic carbon from hillslopes to stream corridors following a large montane wildfire
    Hines, Sarah; Brenkert-Smith, Hannah; Champ, Patricia A.; Joyce, Linda A.; Robichaud, Pete R.; Ryan-Burkett, Sandra E., 2014. Science You Can Use Bulletin: Our relationship with a dynamic landscape: Understanding the 2013 Northern Colorado Flood
    Katz, Harry Alexander; Daniels, J. Michael; Ryan-Burkett, Sandra E., 2014. Slope-area thresholds of road-induced gully erosion and consequent hillslope-channel interactions
    Meyer, Kristen E.; Dwire, Kathleen A.; Champ, Patricia A.; Ryan-Burkett, Sandra E.; Riegel, Gregg M.; Burton, Timothy A., 2012. Burning questions for managers: Fuels management practices in riparian areas
    Ryan-Burkett, Sandra E.; Porth, Laurie; Troendle, C. A., 2002. Defining phases of bedload transport using piecewise regression
    Water from the Big Thompson River washes through a wide landscape in Johnstown, CO (photo by Jenny Sparks, Loveland Reporter-Herald).
    In September 2013, the Colorado Front Range underwent catastrophic flooding during a week-long rain event when 8 to 18 inches of rain fell over the mountain front and neighboring plains. The flood caused considerable damage to property and infrastructure over 1150 square miles, including substantial portions of the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest. 
    Water from the Big Thompson River washes through a wide landscape in Johnstown, CO (photo by Jenny Sparks, Loveland Reporter-Herald).
    In September 2013, the Colorado Front Range underwent catastrophic flooding during a week-long rain event when 8 to 18 inches of rain fell over the mountain front and neighboring plains. The flood caused considerable damage to property and infrastructure over 1150 square miles, including substantial portions of the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest. 
    A workshop was hosted by the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed for those interested in wildfires and post-fire ecology and impacts, discussing transmission of key research findings from work done in the High Park Fire on key topics, implications for post fire restoration management decision making and identification of barriers to rehab/restoration action & knowledge gaps. Researchers from Rocky Mountain Research Station, CSU, and other regional institutions presented results from their work since the High Park Fire.
    Sediment transport through rivers creates and maintains aquatic habitat. In order to understand sediment transport, hydrology and geomorphology of an aquatic ecosystem must be considered.