John Kemper

Advisor: Dr. Sara Rathburn


Previous Education:    University of Maryland, B.S. Geology 2013

University of Maryland Baltimore Country, M.S. Environmental Engineering 2017

About me:

Originally from Philadelphia, I developed an interest in fluvial geomorphology over the course of my undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland, where I  worked on investigating the impact of sand content on sediment transport, deposition, and bar morphology in urban streams. Always drawn to cities, I have spent the last five years continuing to work in urban systems, where I have been interested in the use of stable water isotopes to calculate watershed transit times and temporally dense water quality data to calculate stream metabolism and examine sediment transport dynamics. Coming west is a new chapter for me, and I’m excited to be exploring far more natural systems!

Broadly, my research interests are catchment scale transport dynamics and the fate and transport of sediment in the landscape. I am interested in understanding the influence of change on fluvial systems, especially as it relates to human activity, and how the past change can propagate through time and space.

When I’m not lumbering through rivers trying (and failing) to not fall in, I like to read, ski, hike and climb, and look at cute pictures of cats on the Internet.

Current Research:

Floodplain Forest Establishment and Legacy Sediment within the Yampa River Basin, Northern Colorado

The Yampa River is the last largely unregulated major tributary in the Colorado River system. For its final 70 km, the Yampa flows through Dinosaur National Monument, an area of major conservation importance in northern Colorado. Today the floodplain forest in Dinosaur is composed largely of cottonwood trees, which create diverse ecosystems that provide essential ecological and human benefits disproportionate to their size.

Cottonwood floodplain forests exist entirely due to the availability of suitable establishment sites exposed during seed germination season. The extent of these areas is dependent upon the processes that shape the river landscape, including variability in water and sediment transport (Cooper et al., 2003). While the impact of flow variability on cottonwood reproduction has been extensively investigated, studies quantifying the importance of sediment variability are relatively sparse.

This research will test the hypothesis that establishment of cottonwood floodplain forests along the Yampa River in Dinosaur is the result of extreme erosion that delivered a large volume of legacy sediment to the Yampa from the late 19th to mid-20th century. The overall goal is to assess the long-term view of the natural progression of riparian cottonwood ecosystems. Study findings have important research and management implications for understanding sediment regimes needed to establish cottonwood forests along a river of critical ecologic and recreational value.