Dr. Sara Rathburn


Email: sara.rathburn@colostate.edu

Previous Education: Colorado State University (B.S. Earth Resources, 1985), University of Arizona (MS Geosciences, 1989), Colorado State University (PhD Earth Resources, 2001)

About Sara: Originally from Boulder, I found Fort Collins as an undergraduate geology student and am fortunate to be back working at CSU.  I thoroughly enjoy backcountry skiing, hiking into various water bodies with family, gardening, cooking, and eating!

Research: My research emphasis is on mountain channel response to sediment disturbances. Working in a bedrock river in the Front Range of CO, I used various flow and sediment transport models to predict recovery from a reservoir sediment release that filled pools that are important over winter habitat for fish. From there, I moved to the Upper Colorado River where I have had four students work on various aspects of a sediment release from a breach in an irrigation ditch that triggered a debris flow, including monitoring the effectiveness of a channel realignment implemented by park staff. The one-time reservoir release initiated channel infilling of sediment that translated downstream overtime, whereas the debris flow sediment loading continues as a slow feed downstream resulting in channel bifurcation, avulsions and floodplain accretion. In response to the High Park Fire in 2012, another student assessed controls on channel morphology and sediment delivery from a mulched and control basin. I am working with colleagues on Italian Alps rivers to investigate channel response to an increasing sediment supply under a changing climate. I expanded my spatial focus and started working on big rivers (lower Yellowstone, Powder River) with a PhD student using cottonwood tree rings to reconstruct discharge, floodplain dynamics, and climate history. Another MS student addressed the ongoing impacts of the September 2013 flood sedimentation and channel development along North St. Vrain Creek, and a PhD student has me mapping mass movements and linking slope instabilities to lithology and permafrost thaw. Finally, I am working with colleagues from the USGS and a PhD student to understand the timing of arroyo incision and cottonwood floodplain forest establishment in the Yampa River Basin. All interesting stuff!


Publications: See my vitae

Rathburn CV

Recently Funded Proposals

1) NPS and US Geological Survey, Channel change and floodplain forest establishment within the Yampa River Basin

2) Denali National Park and Preserve, Mass movement response to climate change, Denali National Park, AK

3) City of Longmont: Post-flood sediment and wood flux into Ralph Price Reservoir, North St. Vrain Creek, CO

4) National Park Service, Rocky Mountain National Park: Wood loading and jam characteristics following disturbances on the Upper Colorado River

5) National Park Service, Rocky Mountain National Park: Electrical resistivity imaging for Phase I effectiveness monitoring, Upper Colorado River

6) NSF CNIC: US-Italy Research Project Development on Alpine Mountain Drainage Basin Response to Climatic Warming (Rathburn PI, with Francesco Comiti, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano and Franceso Brardinoni, University of Bologna)


Department faculty website

GetWET Observatory

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