Sampling sediment following wildfires

A woman wearing a mask, hard hat, personal floatation device, and waders stands near a river.

Detailed Description

In August of 2020, the enormous CZU wildfire complex consumed over 85,000 acres in San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties, leaving scarred landscapes in the hilly region. Runoff from large rainstorms in the winter months carry contaminants from the soils within these burned-out forests. Forest fires and the fire retardants used to help control and extinguish them introduce chemicals into watersheds that can harm wildlife and contaminate drinking water. Research geologist Renee Takesue, of the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, samples stream sediment in the lower parts of burned watersheds to measure concentrations of several kinds of contaminants after the major storm runoff in late January of 2021. Our team hopes to compare these with samples taken from the same watersheds after the fire. Samples must be collected before too much time has elapsed since the wildfires, before post-fire storms wash the burned material downstream.


Image Dimensions: 4032 x 3024

Date Taken:

Location Taken: Santa Cruz County, CA, US


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.