- 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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