Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Sediment Lab Suite and Carbon Analysis Laboratory

Learn about the Sediment Laboratory Suite and the Carbon Analysis Laboratory at the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz, California.

At our Science Center, we have a suite of laboratories that we affectionately call the "sed lab." The sed lab really consists of 5 labs, arranged next to each other to allow our lab technicians to easily move back and forth between them while processing sediment samples:

  • Sediment Preparation Lab
  • Fine Particle Analysis Lab
  • Settling Tubes Lab
  • Fume Hood Lab
  • Carbon Analysis Lab

The Sediment Preparation Lab contains all of the tools and equipment needed to prepare and extract sediment for analysis. The samples, which range from long sediment cores to small bags of mud, come from a variety of environments from the deep ocean floor to beaches and marshes.

In the Fine Particle Analysis Lab, the Beckman Coulter LS 13 320 Laser Diffraction Particle Size Analyzer uses laser diffraction to automatically analyze sediment size fractions between 2mm and 0.35 microns (-1 phi to 11.5 phi). The Sedigraph III Particle Size Analyzer uses X-rays to automatically analyze settling times for sediment sizes between 300 microns and 0.1 microns (2 phi to 13 phi).

In the Settling Tubes Lab, we can calculate sediment settling velocity and measure particle size using gravity. We use custom-built settling tubes filled with water – three at 2 meters tall and one 3 meters tall.

Our Fume Hood Lab allows for sample preparation in safe conditions, while performing delicate chemical extractions.

In our Carbon Analysis Lab, we analyze dried samples to find the total inorganic carbon, total organic carbon, and total carbon content.

Publications

Watershed sediment yield following the 2018 Carr Fire, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, northern California

Wildfire risk has increased in recent decades over many regions, due to warming climate and other factors. Increased sediment export from recently burned landscapes can jeopardize downstream infrastructure and water resources, but physical landscape response to fire has not been quantified for some at-risk areas, including much of northern California, USA. We measured sediment yield from three wat

Morphodynamic evolution following sediment release from the world’s largest dam removal

Sediment pulses can cause widespread, complex changes to rivers and coastal regions. Quantifying landscape response to sediment-supply changes is a long-standing problem in geomorphology, but the unanticipated nature of most sediment pulses rarely allows for detailed measurement of associated landscape processes and evolution. The intentional removal of two large dams on the Elwha River (Washingto

Sedimentary evidence of prehistoric distant-source tsunamis in the Hawaiian Islands

Over the past 200 years of written records, the Hawaiian Islands have experienced tens of tsunamis generated by earthquakes in the subduction zones of the Pacific "Ring of Fire" (e.g., Alaska-Aleutian, Kuril-Kamchatka, Chile, and Japan). Mapping and dating anomalous beds of sand and silt deposited by tsunamis in low-lying areas along Pacific coasts, even those distant from subduction zones, is cr

Science

Sediment Transport in Coastal Environments

Our research goals are to provide the scientific information, knowledge, and tools required to ensure that decisions about land and resource use, management practices, and future development in the coastal zone and adjacent watersheds can be evaluated with a complete understanding of the probable effects on coastal ecosystems and communities, and a full assessment of their vulnerability to natural...
link

Sediment Transport in Coastal Environments

Our research goals are to provide the scientific information, knowledge, and tools required to ensure that decisions about land and resource use, management practices, and future development in the coastal zone and adjacent watersheds can be evaluated with a complete understanding of the probable effects on coastal ecosystems and communities, and a full assessment of their vulnerability to natural...
Learn More

Landscape Response to Disturbance

This project characterizes and measures sediment-related effects of landscape disturbances (such as major storms, drought, or wildfire) and river management. We focus primarily on the U.S. west coast, and our work relates to natural hazards and resource management.
link

Landscape Response to Disturbance

This project characterizes and measures sediment-related effects of landscape disturbances (such as major storms, drought, or wildfire) and river management. We focus primarily on the U.S. west coast, and our work relates to natural hazards and resource management.
Learn More

Drag and sediment transport: conditions at the bottom boundary

Research on bed sediment grain size, bedform morphology, vegetation characteristics, and sediment resuspension and transport.
link

Drag and sediment transport: conditions at the bottom boundary

Research on bed sediment grain size, bedform morphology, vegetation characteristics, and sediment resuspension and transport.
Learn More