Erosion monitoring in the Copeland Creek watershed

Erosion monitoring in the Copeland Creek watershed

Project Date
2013 to present






Project Topics

Funding Sources


Due to the erosive geology, this tiny watershed (only 5.1 square miles) produces an astonishing amount of sediment. How much? Where does it come from? Where is it going? Students have established long-term monitoring transects in the upper watershed at the Fairfield Osborn Preserve, the alluvial fan east of campus, and on the SSU campus to answer these questions.



  • Earls et al 2013 -  To assess the dynamic function of the sedimentation processes and create a baseline for Copeland Creek, undergraduate students collected and analyzed sediment cores from a marsh site at SSU’s Fairfield Osborn Preserve.


  • Melcon 2013 - Stream reach characterization of Copeland Creek, Rohnert Park, California
  • Gleaton 2013 - Fluvial erosion and transport: a study of an ephemeral stream located within the Fairfield Osborn Preserve, Sonoma County, California.
  • Ballard 2013 - Establishing a longitudinal study for sediment input in the Copeland Creek headwaters
  • Takajo 2013 - To characterize the sediment transport and deposition of Copeland Creek as it passes through the streams alluvial fan, we installed sediment traps to measure the amount of sediment being transported through the creek. 


  • Trusklaski and Connor 2014 - A longitudinal study of an ephemeral and a permanent stream at Fairfield Osborn Preserve, Sonoma County, CA. The permanent creek study site is a 50 meter reach of Copeland creek. The 50 meter reach of the unnamed ephemeral creek is situated near the Madrone Trail. Students measured longitudinal profiles and horizontal cross sections at both streams, and conducted Wolman pebble counts.


  • Hopper and Rodriguez 2015 - Monitoring stream bank erosion and migration at the Fairfield Osborn Preserve.


  • Flodquist et al 2016 - Our research compared two locations along Copeland Creek to observe various types of erosion occurring at each site.


  • Ramirez 2017- Monitoring stream erosion at Fairfield Osborn Preserve
  • DeSilva et al 2019 - Analysis of autolevel transects along Copeland Creek


  • Russo et al 2018: Characterization of alluvial fan reach of Copeland Creek, with a focus on the site of the avulsion


  • Cleveland et al 2019: To understand how the amount of soil erosion of the stream bank is changing over time, we referenced Michelle Goman's 2013-2018 data, conducted our own survey of her erosion pins, and compared the results.  We found more erosion in the Upper Cross Section than the Lower Cross Section. (See map


Title Format Download Students
"Characterization of Sedimentation Rates at Fairfield Osborn Preserve" poster E-mail Lareina Earls, Gavin Beach, Kirstie Watkins, Collin Yballa, Sarah Hebern
"Stream reach characterization of Copeland Creek, Rohnert Park, California" report Alexa Melcon
"Fluvial Erosion and Transport: A Study of an Ephemeral Stream Located within the Fairfield Osborne Preserve, Sonoma County, California" report Robbie Gleaton
"Establishing a longitudinal study for sediment input in the Copeland Creek headwaters" report Griffin Ballard
"Sediment transport in Copeland Creek" report Chase Takajo
"Sediment transport in Copeland Creek" poster Chase Takajo
"Rods, Pebbles, and Pins: Tracking Changes in Fluvial Processes Fairfield Osborn Preserve" poster Zachary Truskolaski, Devin Connor
"Monitoring stream bank erosion and migration at the Fairfield Osborn Preserve" poster Lauryn Hopper, Quinten Rodriguez
"Erosion Patterns along Copeland Creek" presentation Zachary Flodquist, Elliot Olson, Christian Ramirez
"Monitoring stream erosion at Fairfield Osborn Preserve" poster Yadira Ramirez
"Analysis of autolevel transects along Copeland Creek" poster

Jordan DeSilva, Nichole Beckemeyer, Dillon Dodd, Vanessa McMillon, Jasmin Perdue, Ashleen Rai, Samantha Stevens

"Characterization of alluvial fan reach of Copeland Creek" poster

I. Russo, H. Robinson, T. Dooley, C. Hole, S. Hutchinson 

"Erosion at the Fairfield Osborn Preserve" presentation Jose Ochoa, Lauren Cleveland, Emily Vargas, and Luis Luna
Copeland Creek transect locations photographs  
Ephemeral creek transect locations photographs  
Ephemeral and perennial creeks 2013-2018 at Fairfield Osborn Preserve dataset

Copeland Creek alluvial fan transect data dataset



Informational Resources

Reports and Publications

  • Harrelson, Cheryl C; Rawlins, C. L.; Potyondy, John P. 1994. Stream channel reference sites: an illustrated guide to field technique. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-245. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 61 p. 
  • Copeland Creek Restoration Project Monitoring Plan (2001). The report describes method to evaluate the effectiveness of SCWA's habitat restoration for a ~6,000 linear feet of Copeland Creek between Roberts/Pressley Road and Petaluma Hill Road (east of SSU campus). The project objectives were to ( 1) improve aquatic habitat and water quality through decreasing sediment, nutrient loads, and water temperature;( 2) decrease erosion through development of more stable channel banks and channel courses; and (3) increase fish and wildlife diversity and abundance. The plan provides information on how monitoring will be conducted and includes descriptions of stream cross-section profile, stream longitudinal profile, vegetation surveys, stream habitat and fish surveys, reptile and amphibian surveys, bird surveys, small mammal surveys.
  • Copeland Creek Watershed Assessment (2004)
  • Potter, C and S. Hiatt.(2009). Modeling river flows and sediment dynamics for the Laguna de Santa Rosa watershed in Northern California. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. Vol. 64 (6):383-393.
  • University District Specific Plan Draft Environmental Impact Report; Chapter 3 Impact Analysis (January 29, 2010) The Draft EIR evaluates the potential effects of the proposed University District development. Section 3.6 includes a description of geology and soils. Other Rohnert Park Specific Plans.
  • Northern California Geological Society (NCGS) The Geology of Sonoma - Allen et al. 2009. This is a geology field trip guide to Sonoma Mountain with lots of great information. That last few pages are about the Osborn Preserve and there is a detailed analysis of landslide mapping on the Preserve, including the 1986 Valentine’s Day debris flow.


  • Sonoma County Water Agency (data provided by Mark Bautista pers. comm.). The following amounts of sediment were removed from Copeland Creek between 2008 and 2012 to maintain flood capacity in the lower reaches of the channel:
    • 2008 – 5,120 cu yds
    • 2009 – 240+168 cu yds
    • 2010 – 300 cu yds
    • 2011 – 250+760 cu yd
  • Copeland Creek Watershed Assessment (2004) reports the following information on sediment removal:
    • < 1997 – "In the past, flood control channels were cleared at least once every five years."
    • 1997 – “100 percent of Copeland Creek was cleared in 1997"
    • 1998 – “One of the largest sediment removal activities [of SCWA] was performed in a two and half mile stretch of Copeland Creek three years ago (1998).
    • 2000 – “About 2,000 feet of channel was maintained in 2000. Sediment input from a large runoff area upstream has resulted in significant sediment loads into the creek” (R. Anderson, SCWA, pers comm. 2000) 
    • 2001 – “Only 17 percent (2,000 ft) requires cleaning this year (2001).”