River Eco-Geomorphology

In the fall of 2022, I’ll be developing a new course at Fort Lewis College, called “River Eco-Geomorphology”. This course will be co-taught with Cynthia Dott in FLC’s Biology Department. We’re currently working together on research that examines the history of riparian vegetation succession and geomorphic simplification of the Dolores River in Southwestern Colorado, and how that can be linked back to water diversion and dam construction on the river, beginning in the early 1900s. For more on that research, check out our recent manuscript in Ecohydrology.

As part of this new course, students will explore the links between physical and biological processes in river systems. Building from a foundation in the water cycle, we’ll learn about basic hydraulics and sediment transport in rivers, study geomorphic units/building blocks of river valleys, and discuss river classification frameworks. We’ll then explore foundational concepts in stream ecology, habitat niches and modeling, and conclude by discussing river disturbances (like dams and diversions) and stream restoration techniques. I’m really looking forward to developing and teaching this course, which will include a multi-day raft trip along the San Juan River in southern Utah as part of FLC’s FLOW program, which provides place-based river education opportunities for our students.

No matter the course I’m teaching, my goal as an educator is to foster an environment of mutual respect and collaborative learning. As a researcher, I’m always discovering new things about the processes and landscapes that I study, and I strive to bring those discoveries into the classroom to show students that science is a continuous learning opportunity. Likewise, I enjoy learning from my students - both in terms of techniques for teaching, and by taking the time to explain and research the topics they’re most curious about. Courses are best when we both come to the table acknowledging what we don’t know, and working together to learn those topics

Alan Kasprak
Alan Kasprak
Assistant Professor of Geoscience

I study how rivers work, how we affect them, and the ways that we can restore their physical and ecological processes.