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Source: Ben Meade, meade@k-state.edu
News release prepared by: Beth Bohn, 785-532-6415, bbohn@k-state.edu

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

K-STATE GRADUATE STUDENT IN GEOGRAPHY EARNS BEST PAPER AWARD FROM AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF GEOGRAPHERS

MANHATTAN -- A Kansas State University master's student and graduate teaching assistant in geography has earned the Graduate Student Paper Award from the American Association of Geographers' Geomorphology Specialty Group.

The award to K-State's Ben Meade was presented at the national meeting of the American Association of Geographers, March 22-27, in Las Vegas, Nev.

Meade, from Amherst, N.H., earned a $250 cash award for his paper, "Spatial Extent, Timing and Causes of Channel Incision: Black Vermillion Watershed, NE Kansas." The paper is based on a research project Meade has been involved with since January 2008 as part of his thesis in geography.

The watershed project was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service program to researchers from K-State's departments of biological and agricultural engineering, landscape architecture and regional and community planning, and geography. The principal investigator for the project is Kyle Douglas-Mankin, professor of biological and agricultural engineering at K-State.

According to Meade, the Black Vermillion River contributes runoff and sediment into Tuttle Creek Lake, the federal reservoir northeast of Manhattan. The lake is filling with sediment faster than other federal reservoirs in the region. The lake's conservation pool is about 40 percent full of sediment and is predicted to fill by 2023.

"The purpose of this study, as a whole, is to determine the total sediment output from the Black Vermillion watershed," Meade said.

The geography researchers -- Meade, Mark Gossard, doctoral student in geography from Willow Springs, Mo., and Richard Marston, university distinguished professor and head of the department of geography -- are looking at the in-channel sources of that sediment from channel incision. Researchers from biological and agricultural engineering and landscape architecture and regional and community planning are looking at sediment production from potential overland sources.

"It is not yet known what percentage of sediment emanating from the Black Vermillion watershed -- the sediment that ultimately reaches Tuttle Creek Reservoir -- comes from in-channel sources versus from overland sources. That is still being worked on," Meade said.

"We have conducted a watershed-wide survey of channel cross-sections repeated at sites that were surveyed 45 years ago by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service," he said. "We found that channel depth from 1963 to 2008 increased by a mean of 1.6 meters. Most of the channels are actively incising, or incising and widening."

He said that channelization -- the straightening, widening and deepening of stream channels by people -- had reduced channel length by a significant portion and is one of the leading causes of incision.

"It has been interesting to research a topic that has a distinct practical value," Meade said. "Severe channel incision can cause farmland to erode, can damage bridges and other infrastructure, and potentially contributes to increased flooding. Reservoir sedimentation is a problem throughout the state of Kansas and no clear solution has been reached on that issue."

Meade said he has been fortunate to work with and learn from Gossard and Marston on the project. He also credits Rob Daniels, operations manager in K-State's Geographic Information Systems Spatial Analysis Laboratory in the department of geography, for his assistance with several geographic information systems-related aspects of the project; and Chuck Martin, associate professor of geography, and Marcellus Caldas, assistant professor of geography, for their assistance with the project and for serving on his thesis committee.

Meade plans to pursue a career in the environmental consulting industry and said the watershed project should help him with his career goals.

"This research project, through its combination of field data collection, use of historical and current data sources, and statistical methods, are great tools to have utilized as part of a master’s thesis," he said. "Also, this project involved attempts to understand linkages between natural variables, human influences and stream response. As a result, the total process has been a great education and will hopefully set me up well toward a future career."

Meade is the son of Jeff and Sara Meade, also of Amherst.