Boquillas Canyon Research Trip

On October 15, 2012 seven researchers from Sul Ross State's Rio Grande Research Center (RGRC) embarked on a five-day trip to study the geomorphology of the Boquillas Canyon section of the Rio Grande. Led by Kevin Urbanczyk, RGRC's director and a professor of geology, this expedition focused on gathering data on two sandbars within Boquillas Canyon, as part of the center's continuing efforts to quantify and map sediment transfer along the Rio Grande.

The research is part of an ongoing project funded by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) to document the ecological conditions of the Rio Grande. The CEC was set up as a result of 1994's North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation between the United States of America, Canada and Mexico. The purpose is the advancement of a basin-wide perspective for integrated management and sustainable use of the resources of the Rio Grande.

Currently, Rio Grande flow rates are being affected by dam releases in Mexico and the United States. These releases alter natural river currents and transform the physical and ecological state of the river environment. The overarching goal is to better understand the impact of these changes.

The researchers have identified a series of target sandbars in the Boquillas Canyon to study over time. On this trip, extensive surveys were done on two of those sandbars by Urbanczyk, Chris Jackson, Megan Boatright, Dominick Percoco, Urban Strachan, Katie Dennison and Tommy Reyes.

Several survey techniques were used during the trip that make use of global positioning satellite systems and control points along the river. "The ultimate goal of all of our work at the center is to help assess the health of the Rio Grande ecosystem and to make recommendations for future policy and study," Urbanczyk said.

Field data for Sandbar 6 in Boquillas Canyon was collected by total station survey instrument. The points represent locations where elevation has been determined. The labels indicate the type of point and the substrate at each point. The point data will be converted to a three-dimensional model in a GIS. This will be a baseline geomorphic model for comparison to future surveys to track geomorphic change that could occur due to removal of invasive species and future flood events.






Field data for Sandbar 8 in Boquillas Canyon was collected by total station survey instrument and RTK GPS techniques. The short linear point distribution in the upper right portion of the data set were collected using an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler with the ends of each section located by total station.  Labels indicate point type and substrate.  The data will be used to generate a 3D model for comparison to future data sets.