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Underwater microscope for measuring spatial and temporal changes in bed-sediment grain size

January 1, 2007

For more than a century, studies of sedimentology and sediment transport have measured bed-sediment grain size by collecting samples and transporting them back to the laboratory for grain-size analysis. This process is slow and expensive. Moreover, most sampling systems are not selective enough to sample only the surficial grains that interact with the flow; samples typically include sediment from at least a few centimeters beneath the bed surface. New hardware and software are available for in situ measurement of grain size. The new technology permits rapid measurement of surficial bed sediment. Here we describe several systems we have deployed by boat, by hand, and by tripod in rivers, oceans, and on beaches.