College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley


September 30, 2013

Apply Now | Research Opportunity: Simulation of restored wet-meadow floodplains

Apply Now | Research Opportunity: Simulation of restored wet-meadow floodplains

With Professor Laurel Larsen
Department of Geography
595 McCone Hall


This opportunity is for a funded research position (through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates; Research Assistant I or II, depending on experience) in the Environmental Systems Dynamics Lab on the Berkeley campus.

Project description:
Simple models have been used in many fields to generate and test hypotheses about complex systems. Governed by interactions between flow, sediment transport, vegetation development, and large-scale environmental features, rivers and floodplains are classic complex systems. Simple models have been used in the past to understand the critical processes necessary for the development of braided streams. The processes governing early-stage landscape evolution in low-gradient floodplains with extensive vegetation (e.g., wet meadows) remain poorly understood but are excellent candidates for study using simple simulation models.

The impetus for this project is a new interest in restoring streams through the creation of wet-meadow landscapes, which are valued for groundwater storage, habitat diversity, and water purification. How the restored landscapes are constructed and planted strongly influences how the landscape will develop subsequently. In this project, we will use simple simulation models to evaluate how different types of vegetation communities may influence floodplain development and stream morphology over long time periods, as well as how the sustainability of restored wet-meadow landscapes will be affected by land-use changes and changes in sediment inputs.

Position description:
The student will work with a cellular automata (i.e., rule-based) simulation model that is in the early phases of development. He or she will work closely with the PI on improving the realism of simulated vegetation communities and their effect on flow and on developing different scenarios (representing land-use changes or different environmental conditions) for simulation. Part of this procedure involves statistical analysis of existing datasets collected to improve our understanding of the feedbacks between vegetation communities, flow, sediment transport, and topography.

Desired experience:
Familiarity with programming, especially with Matlab. In general, the student should have a strong quantitative background.

Work expectations:
Hours of work per week are negotiable but should not be less than 7. The student will meet with Professor Larsen on a weekly basis to discuss research progress.

To apply:
Submit a CV, list of relevant coursework, and a letter of interest to