Monday, November 27, 2017

Featured Knowledge Base Entries: December 2017

Here are some featured recent entries to the SEN Knowledge Base (

1) Data:  Tulane Delta Basin Series, Y Wang, L Yu, Q Li, and K Straub

2) Method: Titan Experiment for Influence of Ice Composition on Tensile Strength and Erosion Rates on Titan, K Litwin Miller

Post entries to the Knowledge Base at and see your entry featured next time!

SEN at AGU 2017 Fall Meeting

If you are attending the AGU 2017 Fall Meeting, here are some SEN-related events you should check out:

  • EarthCube Town Hall (Wednesday, December 13)
  • Experimental Session: Physical Experiments of Earth Surface Processes: Novel Results and Advances in Methods, Instrumentation, and Data Handling (Friday, December 15)
  • EarthCube booth located in exhibit hall booth 1633

Look forward to seeing you all in the Big Easy!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

October Experimentalist of the Month: David Furbish

October Experimentalist of the Month: 

David Furbish
Professor, Vanderbilt University

1. How did you first get involved with SEN? 

Siobhan Fathel first convinced me to pay attention to SEN, based on her conversations with Raleigh Martin regarding the objectives of SEN and the significance of archiving experimental data in a manner that makes the data readily available to other researchers. Indeed, Siobhan’s data based on high-speed imaging of bed load sediment motions are available on the SEN website, and they have been used by others. 

2. What different types of experiments have you worked with? 

  • Visualization and measurement of the deformation and response of artificial tree roots during soil shear 
  • The development of flow instabilities (flow fingering) during water infiltration into soils 
  • Visualization and flow velocity measurements of fluid circulation within an experimental tidally driven Hele-Shaw cell 
  • High-speed imaging and analysis of particle motions and transport due to rain drop impacts 
  • High-speed imaging and analysis of bed load particle motions and transport within a turbulent shear flow 
  • Measurements of particle ravel and travel distances on the surface of a large laboratory-scale “hillslope” 

3. What is a favorite memory of yours in the lab? 

Holy Moly this is not a fair question! I have no favorite memory of being in the lab! I have a gazillion memories of delightful stuff happening in a lab! OK... so you need highlights. Here are some... 

To do the Hele-Shaw experiments we mixed zinc-coated micro-balloon tracer particles within glycerin, and projected a laser sheet upward into the narrow Hele-Shaw cell. The laser illuminated the tracer particles. The lab had to be entirely dark to do the high-speed and time-lapse imaging. The first time we turned off the lights and saw the tracer particles doing their lovely dances in the cell was, like, wow! We referred to their sparkly light show as Starry Starry Night! 

Our first set of experiments dropping water drops on sand targets typically involved dropping many tens of drops before one landed precisely on the target. This meant that, for the many not-quite-right drop impacts, we had to reconfigure the target and reset the highspeed imaging system. When we finally got to watch the replay of the first successful impact, and saw in the slow motion the amazing fluid-particle and particle-particle interactions during impact together with the arched trajectories of the splashed particles — all occurring within less than one tenth of one second in real time — well, we were all quite amazed and delighted! 

During our recent experiments involving high-speed imaging of bed load particles, I was the “official” photographer of activities and events. This really meant that I got to watch Kate Potter Leary, Siobhan Fathel and Mark Schmeeckle do their carefully choreographed tasks of preparing the flume sediment, setting up the dual cameras and high-intensity strobe lighting, adjusting the laser sheet (that was my task), setting the flow, acquiring the images, and taking flow velocity measurements. All steps had to be just right. So one can imagine that the several-days effort was an important lesson in patience. And by the end of the experiments, we were really good at it! (Oh... and we all got to wear cool protect-or-eyesfrom-the-laser goggles! They made us look like real scientists. :-) 

4. What do you hope SEN will help the experimental community to achieve?  

I would hope SEN activities open opportunities to grow community interest in developing and using novel and perhaps unusual experimental approaches and techniques, and methods of data processing and analysis... things we have not yet seen or thought about. This could also include instrumentation that currently is beyond the budget of an individual investigator, but manageable with a group of investigators pursuing shared ideas. (For example, I sure would like to have the opportunity to play with an ultra high frame-rate camera without loss of resolution in order to examine certain aspects of sediment particle motions.)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Recent experimental papers

We received the suggestion to compile lists of recent experimental papers to help experimentalists and modelers see the latest research. Here is our first list - it is by no means comprehensive, but rather a survey of some papers that caught our eye. You can always send us your paper to have it added to a future list, please do so we can share it with the community! Contact us at

Zooming in and out: Scale dependence of extrinsic and intrinsic factors affecting salt marsh erosion, Wang et al.
wave tank measures cliff erosion rates of sediment samples

The threshold for continuing saltation on Earth and other solar system bodies, Berzi et al.
uses previous experimental data on saltation in wind tunnels

Competition between uplift and transverse sedimentation in an experimental delta, Grimaud et al.
deformable substrate delta

Predicting paleohydraulics from storm surge and tsunami deposits: Using experiments to improve inverse model accuracy, Johnson et al.
experiments to evaluate an existing advection-settling model

Estimation of small-scale soil erosion in laboratory experiments with Structure from Motion photogrammetry, Balaguer-Puig et al.
quantitative estimation of changes in terrain surfaces caused by water erosion by SfM

Hydromorphodynamic effects of the width ratio and local tributary widening on discordant confluences, Guillén-Ludeña et al.
dynamics of discordant confluences

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Report and Photos from SEN at CSDMS 2017

SEN (the Sediment Experimentalist Network) is an EarthCube Research Coordination Network (RCN) working to build a network of people, labs, tools, and information to make experimental geomorphology data more accessible and reusable. Our work is oriented around addressing grand challenge scientific goals, which include understanding variability in landscape evolution and sediment deposition processes, pursuing reproducibility of sediment experiments across laboratories, and relating scales of experiments to numerical models and natural systems.

SEN acts as a liaison between Earth-surface experimentalists and other communities of interest. Over the last few years, CSDMS and its network of Earth-surface modelers have emerged as natural partners in SEN efforts to document and disseminate datasets from sediment experiments. CSDMS modelers are interested in using experimentalist-generated data to parameterize and validate models; conversely, SEN experimentalists are interested in using Earth-surface models to inform and interpret observations from the laboratory.

To facilitate CSDMS-SEN collaborations and to build our respective networks of scientists, SEN served as co-sponsor for the 2017 CSDMS annual meeting, for a second consecutive year. As co-sponsor, SEN served two primary roles: (1) seeking out and funding experimentalist participants for the CSDMS meeting, and (2) hosting a clinic on the SEN Knowledge Base (SEN-KB), a resource for documentation and discovery of experimental equipment, methods, and datasets.

In total, SEN supported the registration and travel costs for 19 participants at the 2017 CSDMS annual meeting, including 3 of the SEN project leaders: Leslie Hsu (USGS), Raleigh Martin (UCLA), and Kim Miller (U Wyoming). Of these sponsored participants, all but one were early-career graduate students, postdocs, researchers, faculty, or professionals. As a condition for SEN support, all SEN-sponsored participants were required to participate in the SEN-KB clinic. In addition, most SEN-sponsored participants presented their research at poster sessions during the CSDMS meeting.

The SEN-KB clinic at the CSDMS meeting was held on Wednesday, May 23, 2017, and included a total of 33 participants with varying levels of existing familiarity with SEN activities. The 2-hour clinic included a tutorial on using SEN-KB ( to share and discover information on experiments, an introduction to using SEAD (“Sustainable Environment Actionable Data”: for publishing related experimental datasets, and a “DataThon” session for clinic participants to review, contribute, and utilize entries on SEN-KB and SEAD. To better explain the features of SEAD, which has been partnering with SEN to support publication and documentation of experimental datasets, SEAD leader Jim Myers (U Michigan) attended and actively participated in the SEN-KB clinic.

SEN-CSDMS joint events like our 2017 clinic greatly accelerate the improvement and adoption of SEN's tools. We are able to learn a variety of user needs and fix issues while application developers are present. Without these partner clinics, we would not have a way to bring a large and diverse set of stakeholders together to facilitate the development of technical resources for our research community.

Though NSF funding for SEN will end in August 2017, we hope to sustain the SEN community indefinitely through crowdsourced maintenance of SEN-KB and other SEN-developed resources, and through participation in future meetings like those held by CSDMS. These efforts will become more difficult when SEN funding ends. Therefore, we are currently considering several possible funding mechanisms for sustaining SEN and its collaboration with CSDMS into the future. Our focus is to seek resources to support the following:
  • Form a science team within CSMDS that brings together scientists and technologists to solve a science problem while adopting new technical resources, executing data-model integration, and finding solutions for model output storage and reuse.
  • Continue to support the next generation of experimentalists and modelers by providing training for new tools and best practices, building networks between experimentalists and modelers, and cross-pollinating communities by teaching experimentalists how to incorporate numerical models to interpret their results and teaching modelers how to discover and reuse experimental datasets.

In summary, SEN’s co-sponsorship of the 2017 CSDMS annual meeting built on a productive partnership between the Earth-surface experimentalist and modeling communities that we plan to carry into the future. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

AGU Session on Physical Experiments of Earth Surface Processes: novel results and advances in methods, instrumentation, and data handling

From Kyle Strom:

Dear experimentalist - we are pleased to invite you to contribute an abstract to the following AGU session:

EP030. Physical experiments of Earth surface processes: novel results and advances in methods, instrumentation, and data handling
Section/Focus Group: Earth and Planetary Surface Processes
Session ID: 29476 

Session Description:
Physical experiments provide useful insight for investigating Earth surface processes at high spatial and temporal resolution. They are used to develop and test theories for the processes and products of surface evolution, from bedrock erosion to stratigraphic architecture. And the resulting models are applied to tackle a diverse range of problems, spanning interpretation of Earth and other planetary surface signatures to informing environmental management practices. New insights from physical experiments often require advances in our collective abilities to acquire, store, disseminate, and mathematically wade through data. Join us in presenting your contributions to these important areas of experimental research. This session highlights: (1) results from laboratory and field experiments that study sedimentary and hydrologic systems, (2) recent advancements in experimental methods and instrumentation that are allowing for the measurement of previously unquantified, or under sampled, dynamics in Earth surface processes; and (3) new methods and best practices surrounding data analysis, storage, and dissemination.

Confirmed Invited Speakers
Tetsuji MUTO (Nagasaki University)
Enrica Viparelli (University of South Carolina)

Aaron Bufe (GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences)
Brandon McElroy (University of Wyoming)
Kyle Strom (Virginia Tech)
Andrew Wickert (University of Minnesota)

(Abstracts due August 2, 2017!)