Investigating the link between sand sediment transport and river morphodynamics


Sand-bed rivers dominate the Earth's drainage, yet we are unable to predict or explain their morphology and how they respond to environmental change. Why is this? A pivotal unresolved issue is: how does the transition between bedload and suspension-dominated sand transport regimes control the large-scale morphodynamics and patterning of sand-bed rivers? If we can develop and verify realistic models of sediment transport dynamics in sand-bed rivers, it will become possible to answer this question, and construct numerical models that can be transferred across diverse environments and used to predict river evolution.

South Saskatchewan River

The South Saskatchewan River in western Canada is an ideal location to undertake this project. The river has good baseline data and its clear water column  enables an unprecedented view of active bedform morphodynamics.

UAV overview of a South Saskatchewan River mid-channel bar showing beforms through the water column
Overview of a mid-channel bar in the South Saskatchewan River and bedforms clearly visible through the water column.


Development of the first physically-based morphodynamic model with a demonstrated capability to simulate diverse river channel patterns and their evolution over centennial time-scales.

Fluid Dynamics

Advances in Computational Fluid Dynamics modelling (including the development of new approaches to representing boundary roughness and integrated 2D and 3D modelling approaches, and their application within rivers and floodplains, and over complex bed topography at grain, bedform and whole-river scales.

ADCP Measurements
of Flow Structures

Application of acoustic measurement techniques to quantify mean and turbulent flow structures and suspended sediment dynamics within rivers, estuaries and marine environments.


Advances in understanding of alluvial bedform dynamics in both field and laboratory settings, including the feedbacks between turbulent flow structures, sediment suspension, discharge variation and dune morphology.

Unlocking Archival
Aerial Imagery

Members of the research team have been collecting annual aerial imagery, and in some years multiple epochs, since 2000. This project aims to unlock the wealth of information in these photos by developing methods to orthorectify and produce high quality DEM's from this data archive as well as images collected during this project.

Remote Sensing for
DEM Generation

Development and application of new photogrammetric and image processing techniques that allow Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) to be generated from below the water surface and over large areas and short time periods (minutes and hours), thus revolutionizing the scale at which rivers can be studied.