Sarah Benjaram, graduate student in MSU's Department of Earth Sciences, is investigating the physical and chemical weathering processes that deliver sediment loads into river system. By quantifying controls on soil formation and weathering, Sarah's research will strengthen scientific understanding on how landscapes develop to their present state, and how they may evolve with climate change.
By examining geomorphology and geochemistry, Sarah Benjaram will compare the relative effects of past and present climate on modern landscape evolution.
Here in the Bitterroot River Watershed of western Montana, high sediment loads affect water quality, and are of serious concern for downstream water users, including the population center of Missoula.
Sarah's research design will depend on sample collection and comprehensive observational studies, including: measuring soil cover, thickness and chemistry in selected tributaries as well as using cosmogenic nuclides in river sands to quantify millennial-scale, and catchment-wide erosion rates.
In 2015, the Montana Water Center awarded Sarah with financial support to help carry-out her necessary field studies. In addition, Dr. Jean Dixon (Montana State University) and Dr. Andrew Wilcox (University of Montana) will provide additional mentorship and guidance throughout the duration of her project.