Graduate Project


Monitoring individual particle transport in a gravel bedded stream using a passive radio transponder system, Corvallis, Oregon Public Deposited

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  • Gathering empirical data on the factors and processes affecting bedload transport in the field is difficult. This project conducted during the winter of 1996 field tested a new passive method of positively tracking individual particle movement. The project was conducted in Oak Creek, a gravel bedded stream, located in Corvallis, Oregon. This paper provides an overview of existing techniques of tracking bedload and individual particle movement and gives the results of the field test. The new individual particle tracking technique utilizes a passive radio transponder which can be implanted inside of natural particles. The transponder consists of a microchip that has its own unique hexadecimal identification code. When exposed to a magnetic field the transponder emits a radio signal of the transponder's code which is interpreted by a receiver. This technique provides positive identification and has an estimated life-time of decades. The transponders are relatively inexpensive at approximately 6 dollars each, allowing a statistically significant number of particles to be utilized. A small (2.7 mm) diameter hole is drilled in the particles. There is no significant discrepancy in volume of the implanted particles. This field test also utilized two other techniques of tracing gravels. A pre-existing vortex bedload sampler was used to capture bedload transport and the implanted particles were painted to aid in visual identification. Sixty-eight implanted particles were placed from November 1995 to February 1996. A large storm event, post placement, in February 1996 created discharges within the Oak Creek study reach. These flows caused scour and transport beyond the research design utilizing prototype equipment. Consequently, three of the implanted particles placed in February 1996 were located after transport, one particle was located twice. The field test provided proof of concept that the passive radio transponder technology can be utilized to track individual particles in natural stream channels. Continued development of the technology is necessary to increase its ease and effectiveness of use. The field test also showed that the efficiency of the passive radio transponder and other tracking techniques are enhanced when more than one monitoring techniques are employed. Empirical data gathered with this and additional techniques can potentially provide detailed information on the controlling factors and processes involved in particle transport in dynamic systems.
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