Relationships Between Lithology, Vegetation, and Landscape Evolution

Summer 2016

Colleen Murphy : Geophysics

Mentor: Bill Dietrich

The ability to understand and predict how landscapes will evolve enables us to mitigate the effects of natural disasters and to act as stewards of the land by taking appropriate conservation and restoration measures when necessary. Currently, the geomorphic transport laws that we use to express this evolution do not quantitatively consider variations in rock types and the vegetative communities that they host. This project aims to further our understanding of the role that lithologic heterogeneity plays in landscape evolution by mapping and characterizing lithologic variability at two sites in the Northern California Coast Ranges. By combining physical and geochemical analyses of rock samples with maps constraining the spatial extent of rock types, I will be able to investigate the influence of lithology on vegetation distribution, channel morphology, and hillslope relief. 

My deepest thanks go to the Pergo Foundation, as well as to the SURF Program and Professor Dietrich for supporting this project. I am thrilled to be able to apply material learned in class when conducting research this summer in the beautiful Northern Coast Ranges of California. The opportunity to design and carry out this senior thesis project will be fantastic preparation for graduate school as well as a tremendously fun and enlightening summer experience.