International Estuary Study at Clatsop Community College MERTS Campus

An international research team has embarked on a three year field campaign to measure the key flow, sediment transport and depositional processes operating in the Lower Columbia River.

This project funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC - the UK equivalent of the National Science Foundation (NSF)) is based at the Clatsop Community College MERTS campus. The project started on December 1, 2010 and had its first field season in June and again in September 2011.

The NERC project will run for three years and is focused on the river-tidal area between Port Westward (formerly Beaver Army Terminal) and Hammond. The distinguished project team, led by Professor Phil Ashworth with the University of Brighton in the UK, hopes to be able to share results and project outcomes through a series of seminars, illustrated talks and workshops for MERTS staff, students, stakeholders and the general public. The first step in this outreach program is the recent launch of the project website at The website provides downloads for educational use and archives some of the many photographs of the fieldwork in action. Research activities can also be followed on Twitter at #TIFZColumbia and tweets by @RioParana and @bedform.

The June and September 2011 field seasons have been extremely productive and illuminating. Research has now shown that the Columbia frequently changes its shape and form and is particularly responsive to tidal events. The sand islands in Cathlamet Bay build up layers of sediment but preserve few clays or organic matter. The Columbia fieldwork is linked to a mathematical model that aims to predict how the Columbia River will respond to future changes in river discharge and sediment transport. The next field season for the project is scheduled for June 2012 when the team will return to map the bed morphology in the estuary. The NERC project continues to work in partnership with MERTS.

“Our international research team received a friendly, open and enthusiastic welcome from the staff at MERTS. We are particularly grateful for the training received on the dangers of the Columbia River tidal zone, the access to the rib boat and the use of workshop space for equipment storage and sediment core preparation. We are indebted to both Michael Wilkin and Katie Rathmell for the time spent sharing their knowledge and expertise of the Columbia River. The workshop/fabrication staff also kindly helped us construct various equipment rigs. You have an impressive and envious infrastructure and we thank you for allowing access to it,” commented project leader Ashworth on the MERTS partnership.

If you require any further information or wish to provide feedback, please contact the Project Leader, Professor Phil Ashworth, visit the project webpage at or tweet to @RioParana and add #TIFZColumbia.

Clatsop Community College is an affirmative action, equal opportunity institution.

Attached Image #1: Project team collects data by moving ground penetrating radar unit over exposed sand bars in a grid pattern. Submitted photo.


Attached image #2: Project team takes soil cores at Sandee Bar in the Columbia River. Submitted photo.

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