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Go With The Flow: Are Mountain Stream Channels Shaped by Flood and Drought?

This article is from Issue Rocky Mountain - Vol. 2 No. 1.

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When humans divert water from mountain streams, there is less water in the streams at certain times. The scientist in this study wanted to know whether stream channels are changed as a result of having less water at certain times, and normal flow at other times. The scientist wanted to know what happens to the channel when water is diverted out of it.

Note to Educators

Education Standards Correlations

Meet the scientists that contributed to this article:

"Science Topics" covered in this article:
  • Earth Science
  • Life Science
  • People and Science

"Environmental Topics" covered in this article:
  • Rivers, Lakes, Streams (Students)
  • Using Forests (Students)
  • Vegetation Management (Educators)
  • Water (Educators)

Regions covered in this article:
  • Rocky Mountain

"Thinking About Science Themes" covered in this article:
When scientists develop plans to do research, those plans influence and limit what they will discover. If a scientist decides to measure something, that is all he or she can report about. For example, the scientist in this study wanted to know whether streams changed from their normal shape when water was diverted from them and into another channel. To find this out, she measured the width of the streams'channels. After the research was done, she reported that she should have also measured the channels'depth and the size of the stones in the channels. Because she did not measure those things, she could only report on changes in the channels'width. A scientific study does not always provide the complete answer to a question. It often raises other questions that can be addressed in future research.
Specific "Thinking About Science" Themes:
  • The Scientific Process
  • Uses and Benefits of Science

"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
When humans make changes in the environment, they are not always sure what impact those changes will have on the environment. In this study, the scientist wanted to know if steep mountain stream channels are changed by diverting water from them. In the Western United States, water is often scarce where people live. To provide water for people living in cities where water is scarce, it is diverted from mountain streams. It is piped through tunnels across the mountains to reservoirs for storage and human use. When this is done, the existing mountain streams have a reduced flow, and sometimes may even be dry.
Specific "Thinking About the Environment" Themes:
  • Human impact on natural resources

NSE Standards covered in this article:
  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry (A)
  • Natural hazards (F)
  • Nature of science (G)
  • Risks and benefits (F)
  • Science and technology in society (F)
  • Science as a human endeavor (G)
  • Understandings about scientific inquiry (A)

Science Benchmarks covered in this article:
  • Common Themes: Constancy and Change
  • Common Themes: Systems
  • Habits of Mind: Communication Skils
  • Habits of Mind: Critical-Response Skills
  • Human Society: Social Trade-Offs
  • The Living Environment: Interdependence of Life
  • The Mathematical World: Reasoning
  • The Nature of Science: Scientific Inquiry
  • The Nature of Science: The Scientific Enterprise
  • The Nature of Technology: Technology and Science
  • The Physical Setting: Processes that Shape the Earth