GRG 384-C (unique # 37530)

Semester Focus:

 Management of Lowland Fluvial Systems in a Changing Environment


Fall 2008, T 4:00-7:00, GRG 312

Instructor: Paul F. Hudson, Ph.D.
Office: GRG 336, E-mail: pfh@austin.utexas.edu,

Office hours: T 9.30–10:30, Th 12:00-1:00, and by appointment


Course web site: https://webspace.utexas.edu/hudsonpf/classes/watershed-management_spring_2010.html


This graduate seminar examines the management of large lowland fluvial systems to environmental change. Large lowland fluvial systems are deceptively complex physical settings, constantly adjusting to various types of natural and human induced environmental change that occurs over local and global scales, including climate change, land degradation, subsidence, sea level rise, neotectonics, and geomorphic (autogenic) adjustments. Despite the constraints imposed by the physical environment, many of Earth’s large fluvial lowlands support high populations and include large cities. Effective management of these systems requires a comprehensive suite of coordinated planning and engineering activities, necessitating an understanding of geomorphic, sedimentologic, and hydrologic processes. Unfortunately many of the management options imposed by government agencies results in long lasting unintended geomorphic and ecological consequences, which in some instances increases human vulnerability to environmental change. The Lower Mississippi is an intensively modified and studied system that provides excellent opportunities to explore a myriad of topics related to management and environmental change of large lowland fluvial systems.

This graduate seminar is comprised of lectures, group discussion, presentations, and critical analysis of selected readings.

Readings, Participation, and Discussion
Students are responsible for reading at least several articles each week. The literature will be made available via the class web site as a series of downloadable files (pdf format). All students are expected to attend seminars and engage in discussion.



Each student will serve as a discussant two times during the semester. Each discussant should present a synthesis of ideas, concepts, and a critical review of the literature. Each discussant is required to provide a copy of their outline and a bibliography for all classmates, and a digital version to Hudson (to be assimilated and redistributed to class at the end of the semester).

We will have a quiz at the end of the physical processes section. This will ensure that all students have at least the same basic level of understanding of the physical processes before entering the management phase of the seminar.

Final Project (proposal, presentation, and term paper)

Each student will develop a research project on an approved topic on a single lowland fluvial system. You will hand in a brief (3 pg) proposal, and present a 5 minute class presentation. Specific guidelines and format will be provided in class.


Fieldtrip (see field trip slides)

Tentative: A five day fieldtrip to the Lower Mississippi River Valley is being planned for the first week of March (pending budgetary approval). If approved, we’ll work along a transect, from Vicksburg, MS to New Orleans, and cover topics such as floodplain development, flood control, subsidence, wetland loss, etc… The field trip will be optional.




Students should be of graduate level standing, or be exceptional undergraduates (with instructor consent). Students are not expected to have prior courses in fluvial geomorphology, but should have some prior training in natural sciences (physical geography, geology, or civil engineering). A typical seminar includes students from a range of departments and colleges, which creates an interdisciplinary perspective on the study of watershed systems and environmental management. Past students have come from the following UT departments: Geography, Geology, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Latin American Studies, LBJ School of Public Affairs, History, Integrative Biology, Archaeology, Marine Sciences, and Planning.



·         Attendance: You are required to attend all classes and arrive on time.

·         Lateness: Late labs, exams, and papers will be assigned a 5% reduction per day.

·         The use of any electronic and/or computer media is not allowed in class (e.g., laptops, phones, etc…)


I employ a standard 100 point grading system (100 to 90 = A, 89.9 to 80 = B, 79.9 to 70 = C, etc…).

·                     Quiz: 20%

·                     Topic presentation (discussant * 2): 30%

·                     Final project (proposal, presentation, and term paper): 40%

·                     Participation: 10%


Class Web Site and Blackboard

In this class I use my own course web site and Blackboard—a Web-based course management system with password-protected access at http://courses.utexas.edu —to distribute grades and other course materials.


University of Texas Honor Code

The core values of The University of Texas at Austin are learning, discovery, freedom, leadership, individual opportunity, and responsibility. Each member of the university is expected to uphold these values through integrity, honesty, trust, fairness, and respect toward peers and community.


Academic Integrity

All students are expected to adhere to University policies concerning scholastic integrity. Any form of scholastic dishonesty will not be tolerated, and will be dealt with in an appropriate manner as outlined by the University. "Scholastic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarism, collusion, falsifying academic records, and any act designed to give unfair academic advantage to the student (such as, but not limited to, submission of essentially the same written assignment for two courses without the prior permission of the instructor, providing false or misleading information in an effort to receive a postponement or an extension on a test, quiz, or other assignment), or the attempt to commit such an act." Student's should refer to the University guidelines on Academic Dishonesty (section 11-802).


Documented Disability Statement

The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with dis­abilities. For more information, contact Services for Students with Disabilities at 471-6259 (voice) or 232-2937 (video phone) or http://www.utexas.edu/diversity/ddce/ssd


Use of E-Mail for Official Correspondence to Students

E-mail is recognized as an official mode of university correspondence; therefore, you are responsible for reading your e-mail for university and course-related information and announcements. You are responsible to keep the university informed about chang­es to your e-mail address. You should check your e-mail regularly and frequently—I recommend daily, but at minimum twice a week—to stay current with university-related communications, some of which may be time-critical. You can find UT Austin’s poli­cies and instructions for updating your e-mail address at http://www.utexas.edu/its/policies/emailnotify.php


Religious Holy Days

By UT Austin policy, you must notify me of your pending absence at least fourteen days prior to the date of observance of a reli­gious holy day. If you must miss a class, an examination, a work assignment, or a project in order to observe a religious holy day, I will give you an opportunity to complete the missed work within a reasonable time after the absence.


Behavior Concerns Advice Line (BCAL)

If you are worried about someone who is acting differently, you may use the Behavior Concerns Advice Line to discuss by phone your concerns about another individual’s behavior. This service is provided through a partnership among the Office of the Dean of Students, the Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC), the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and The University of Texas Police Department (UTPD). Call 512-232-5050 or visit http://www.utexas.edu/safety/bcal




Key Readings (in progress)



Physical Processes and Conceptual Framework

Week 1: 1-21

Course introduction, semester organization


The Fluvial System I: Watershed processes

Downs and Gregory (2005)


Course organization, lecture

Week 2: 1-28

The Fluvial System II:

Floodplain and Deltas

Saucier (1994) Holocene;

Saucier (1994) deltas;

Hudson (2008)



Week 3: 2-4

Quaternary framework and neotectonics

Aslan and Autin (1999), Blum et al. (2008), Burnett and Schumm (1983); Roberts (1998)

Maraigh and Mike


Week 4: 2-11

Hydrology and flooding; Sediment load

Kesel et al. (1992); Kesel (2003); Meade and Moody (2010); Mossa (1996); Pitlick (1997); Wasklewicz,et al. (2004)

Othoniel and Niti

Week 5: 2-18

Overbank processes, connectivity, and riparian/wetland environments; Channel adjustment (autogenic)

Aslan et al. (2005); Gomez et al. (1997); Hudson and Kesel (2000); Hupp et al. (2008); Kesel et al. (1974); Shankman and Samson (1991); Wren et al. (2008)

Maria Jose, Ingrid

Maraigh, Othoniel

Brief proposal presentation

Week 6: 2-25

Fluvial - coastal interaction

McKee and Cherry (2009); Reed (1989); Snedden et al. (2007); Turner et al. (2006) (also Tornqvist et al. 2007-Comment, and Turner et al. 2007-Reply)

Joseph, Megan, Matt

Brief proposal presentation

Quiz (due)

Environmental Change and Management

Week 7: 3-4

Historic human impacts: Land use change and engineering

ASCE (2006); Hudson et al., (2008); Kesel and Yodis (1992); Smith (1996); US Congress (1928); McPhee (1987)



Aslan et al. (2005); Hupp et al. (2008) Kesel et al. (1974, 2003); Meade et al. (2010); Reed (1989); Roberts (1998); Saucier (1994); Turner et al. (2006) and response/reply


(no class meeting)

Field trip to lower Mississippi Valley

Sat. Feb. 2/27 to Wed. March 3

Week 8: 3-11

Historic human impacts: Land use change and engineering

Review of field trip to Lower Mississippi (including readings)

Elke, Sara, Josh

Week 9: 3-18


Week 10: 3-25

Climate change and the Lower Mississippi River


All students read:

Working Group I (The Physical Science Basis): Summary for Policymakers, Chs. 3.1, 3.6, 3.8, 5.5, 11.5

Working Group II (Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability): Summary for Policymakers, Ch. 3 (Exec. Summary), Ch. 3.4, 3.6.

Climate Change and Water, by Bates et al. 2008 (Ch. 1; 5.6)

Anwar, Matt, Niti

Week 11: 4-1

Sea level rise and Subsidence

Blum and Roberts (2009); Day et al., (2007); Yuill et al. (2009)



Working Group I (The Physical Science Basis): Summary for Policymakers, Chs. 5.5

Working Group II (Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability): Summary for Policymakers, Ch. 6 (Coastal Systems and low-lying Areas), Executive Summary, Chs. 6.4 and 6.6

Joseph, Elke, Mike

Term Paper Outline

Week 12: 4-8

Integrated Flood Management and global environmental change

(additional readings of reference to our WFD discussion)

WFD - Reference Standards

Henriksen 2009

Nijboer et al. 2004

Hatton-Ellis 2008


WFD - Stakeholder Process

Gerrits and Edelenbos, 2004

Orr et al. 2009


Integrated Flood Management; EU Directive 2007/60/EC; Straatsma et al., 2009;

EU 2009: River Basin Management in a Changing Climate (Exec. Summary; Sections 1, 2, 6)

Also, please review the various documents within the main web site of the "EU Flood Risk Directive", specifically the "River Basin Management" and "Flood Risk Management" (under "Water Quantity" tab) links. Also, "time table" for flood risk directive (including the "smiley faces")

Ingrid, Sara, Megan

Week 13: 4-15

AAG in Washington DC (no class)

Week 14: 4-22

Mississippi delta management plan

Louisiana Coastal Area - 2050

Readings: Final Report: Exec. Summary; Sections 3 (Plan Formulation), 4 (Plan Implementation); 5 (Public Involvement), 6 (Recommendations).

Maria Jose, Josh, Anwar

Week 15: 4-29

Final Project Presentation (papers due) : Anwar, Maraigh, Maria Jose, Megan, Niti, Othoniel, Sara

Week 16: 5-6

Final Project Presentations (papers due): Elke, Ingrid, Joseph, Josh, Matthew, Mike


created by paul f. hudson spring '00, last modified by pfh April 9, 2010