Geoscientists-in-the-Parks: Bio-Engineering and Geomorphology Technicians

Jennifer Chan and Robby Jost - Mount Rainier National Park, 2016

Interns standing in rocky river bed
GIP Jennifer Chan (left), park volunteer (center), and GIP Robby Jost (right) at the Westside Road, Mount Rainier National Park. (NPS photo)

Robby and Jeni, under the supervision of Geomorphologist Paul Kennard, evaluated the risk of flooding at different sites at Mount Rainier National Park in an effort to mitigate damage to park roads. Early road construction techniques utilized only rock and loose sediment as fill material for park roads, which is not appropriate for the dynamic hydrologic conditions at the park. Due to climate change, catastrophic debris flows and glacial outburst floods are increasingly frequent and are capable of transporting large rocks and woody debris that can damage park roads. During flood events where the water rises and fill material is entrained by the river, it can erode the roadbed. One of the projects Robby and Jeni worked on was to remediate the Westside Road—a historic corridor of the park which has been continually damaged and closed to the public by flood and debris flow events since the 1960’s. As part of their work, they measured the width of the remaining road surface and the height of the road surface above the riverbed to estimate the volume of fill material remaining and how much material would be required to restore the road so that it is passable by vehicles. Robby proposed the construction of a Large Woody Structure (LWS) to repair, stabilize, and reduce further damage to the road. After the installation of the LWS, Jeni proposed planting willows and other pioneer plant species along the outer edge of the road in order to create a biological buffer and facilitate forest succession that will dramatically improve the stability of the riverbank and reduce further damage to the roadway.

Intern standing by log pile
Robby Jost standing next to the trees used to create the large woody structure for road remediation and GIP project. (NPS photo)

Learn About GIP Opportunities

For more than 20 years, the Geoscientists-in-the-Parks program has been placing talented college students and recent graduates in parks to gain on-the-ground work experience while completing important natural resource science projects for the National Park Service.

Part of a series of articles titled GIP Participants and Project Highlights [8 Articles].

Last updated: June 16, 2020