Watershed Hydrology on Libby Creek

Merging Research and Education Through Field Study

Snowy Range, Wyoming

Summary:  Wildland hydrology is a field-based discipline that is highly reliant on a variety of instruments that collect meteorological, hydrological and soil state data.  In REWM4285 (Wildland Hydrology), students apply advanced techniques for management, manipulation, modeling and interpretation of these data.  In the past, the course has been taught in a traditional class-based manner with little or no exposure to field equipment, data collection, or processing.  While this approach is fundamentally sound, is creates a critical gap in knowledge and understanding: that of the transformation from raw to useful data.  In addition to this gap, I have observed that virtually none of the incoming graduate students or undergraduate students have any knowledge of or contact with field instruments, which is a concern since they are at a competitive disadvantage for job applications requiring field work and (of more concern to academic pursuit) may fail to understand the host of attendant data management and interpretation issues that are related to field data collection, including sources of error and uncertainty.  Over the past two years the class has been re-engineered to build upon a field campaign in which students are exposed to standard and cutting-edge data collection efforts and given hands-on exercises in which they explore and better understand data and its limitations.  Furthermore, field data collection occurs year-round and is providing a rich data source for a variety of research scientists who are collaborating on the project.  The goal of this effort is to fully link education and research for the advancement of hydrologic understanding in the Rocky Mountains.

Project description.  We have installed a network of gages and sensors at sites within the Libby Creek watershed with intensive instrumentation in an unnamed 1st-order watershed that will allow us to fully describe the hydrological system.  The emphasis of the research is hydrological, with the installation of four (4) continuous runoff gages within the streams of Libby Creek, the unnamed contributing watershed, and one on Nash Fork near the ski area.  However, we have also installed 3 suites of soil moisture sensors, a meteorological tower for collecting weather data, two (2) sets of rain gages (3 gages total), automated water samplers, sap flux meters and associated radio telemetry.  All access is via established paved roads and maintained service roads (to the ski area and sites near or adjacent to Green Rock Campground and the Barber lake Road) and then on foot / skis / snowshoes to get to the other sites.  Equipment is left in the field year-round with weekly access to visit the sites and establish function / failures.  Data are sent via radio communications to the central meteorological site and then forwarded to campus via cell network.

Figure 1 - Locations of the field instrumentation near Laramie (click to enlarge)

 Table 1.  Locations of sites and equipment to be placed in the Study Area

Site Identification

Longitude (dd)

Latitude (dms)

Equipment list

Site 1: Met Station



106  12� 59.1� W

41  20� 48.6� N

9-foot tower

Weighing type rainfall gauge

Air temperature

Wind speed

Incoming solar radiometer

Soil moisture (TDR) probes

Soil temperature

Sap flux meters

Tipping bucket type rainfall gauge

Solar panel

Datalogger receiver and transmitter

Site 2: Repeater

106  12� 46.65� W

41  20� 35.97� N

Radio repeater on 10-meter tower

Weighing rain gage

Tipping bucket rain gage

Datalogger receiver and transmitter

Site 3: Reoccupy older runoff station



106  12� 20.38� W

41  20� 17.02� N

Submersible pressure transducer

Water temperature

Pump sampler

Pressure transducer for barometric pressure

Air temperature

Site 4: Libby Runoff

106  12� 36.02� W

41  20� 23.57� N

Submersible pressure transducer

Water temperature

Site 5: Unnamed Creek Runoff

106  12� 40.01� W

41  20� 27.07� N

Submersible pressure transducer

Water temperature

Datalogger and transmitter

Site 6: Nash At Ski Area



106  11� 2.36� W

41  20� 35.34� N

Submersible pressure transducer

Water temperature

Weighing-type rainfall gauge

Site 7: Soil Moisture 1



106  13� 1.67� W

41  20� 38.45� N

 Soil moisture / temperature probes

 Temperature probes

 Tipping bucket rain gage

 Sonic distance meter for snow depth

Sap flux meters

Site 8: Soil Moisture 2


106  12� 49.92� W

41  20� 45.75� N

Soil moisture / temperature probes

Sonic distance sensor for snow depth

Sap flux meters