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!)

Friday, July 14, 2017

July Experimentalist of the Month: Elowyn Yager

July Experimentalist of the Month: 

Elowyn Yager
Associate Professor, University of Idaho

1. How did you first get involved with SEN?
I attended one of their first workshops in Austin and have been hooked on learning about data management and building a network of experimentalists!

2. What different types of experiments have you worked with?
I have mostly worked on experiments involving flow hydraulics and sediment transport, including indoor and outdoor flumes. Some of the current topics that I am investigating with students and collaborators are the link between turbulence and the onset of sediment transport, the mechanics of grain resistance to movement, and vegetation impacts on flow and sedimentation.

3. What is a favorite memory of yours in the lab? 
Building my first flume and actually seeing sediment transport in action despite the flume being held together largely by duct tape, silicone caulk and epoxy.

4. What do you hope SEN will help the experimental community to achieve?
I think SEN will bring mechanisms for data sharing and management to the community as well as facilitate broader communication about experimental techniques and collaborations between experimentalists.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Featured New SEN Knowledge Base Entries

Here are some featured new entries to the SEN Knowledge Base:

1) Hydrodynamics at Cape Canaveral shoals - Fall 2013, Spring 2014, and Fall 2014 Experiments - Juan F. Paniagua-Arroyave

2) Ensemble Distributions of Particle Motions - Siobhan L. Fathel

3) Data for Experiments on Massive Deposits in Upper Regime - Ricardo R. Hernandez Moreira

4) Steadiness of dilute, particle-laden density currents - Benjamin J. Andrews

5)  Distribution of particle excursion lengths across a wide range of Rouse numbers - Suleyman Naqshband

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

Monday, February 13, 2017

SEN at CSDMS annual meeting in May 2017

SEN will be organizing a clinic on the Sediment Experimentalist Network Knowledge Base (SEN-KB) at the upcoming annual meeting of CSDMS (Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System) on May 23-25, 2017 at CU Boulder. As we did at last year's meeting, we will provide an introduction on how to use the SEN-KB resource and the associated SEAD (Sustainable Data Actionable Environment) data sharing platform. Then, like at our recent DataThon, we will be working together to contribute new entries to SEN-KB and to evaluate the usefulness of existing entries. Our activities at CSDMS will follow immediately after the international SEN workshop at Tsukuba University, Japan (May 18-19, 2017), during which participants will be performing a community experiment on a topic of sedimentary interest, which will form the basis for many of our new contributions to SEN-KB. At the CSDMS SEN-KB clinic, we will also briefly discuss ideas for the future of data sharing in the sedimentary research community following the completion in summer 2017 of the NSF Research Coordination Network grant for SEN. If you are interested in attending the CSDMS annual meeting and our SEN-KB clinic, we have funding to support a limit number of attendees. Please email us at for more information.

SEN Datathon a Success!

On Sunday, December 11, 2016, we gathered a group of 11 sediment experimentalists on the campus of UC Berkeley for the first ever SEN DataThon. With the help of coffee and pizza (and Alex Bryk from UC Berkeley!), we spent the afternoon contributing entries to the SEN Knowledge Base (SEN-KB) experimental wiki and the SEAD (Sustainable Data Actionable Environment) data sharing platform. We also discussed ideas for improving the SEN-KB and SEAD resources in the future. Through our combined efforts, we added (or updated) 16 entries on the SEN-KB. We are looking forward to organizing a similar type of DataThon at the upcoming annual meeting of CSDMS (Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System) on May 23-25, 2017 at CU Boulder. If you are interested in attending this event, please see below in the newsletter for more information.

February Experimentalist of the Month: Leonard Sklar

February Experimentalist of the Month:

Leonard Sklar

San Francisco State University

1. How did you first get involved with SEN? I first got involved with SEN when Leslie Hsu asked me to consider serving on the steering committee. I’m glad I said yes! My unique contribution has been to be a test case for getting an old-school, dark-data-generating, non-socially-networked experimentalist to adopt the enlightened data management practices of the 21st century. 

2. What different types of experiments have you worked with? The types of experiments I’ve worked with include: erosion of real and simulated bedrock in flumes, rotating drums, and abrasion mills; gravel and sand bedload sediment transport in flumes of various sizes; channel meander migration in two laboratory basins; particle wear in anular flumes and rotating drums; fine sediment infiltration in gravel beds; gravel bed stabilization by net-spinning caddisfly larvae; and impact erosion of water ice at ultra-low temperatures.

3. What is a favorite memory of yours in the lab? A favorite memory from the lab was the first time we turned on the 4 meter diameter rotating drum when it was filled with as many cobble-sized particles as we thought we could fit in, which turned out to be about 2 tons of them. Our goal was to measure the rate of particle wear across as wide a range of drum sizes as possible, to develop a relationship for scaling particle wear rates from the lab to the field. When we hit the start button we didn’t really know if the wheel would turn, and keep turning without bursting or falling over or suffering some other calamity. But it performed flawlessly, turning at 1 meter per second tangential velocity, creating a deafening roar from the vigorous particle collisions.  As if they were as excited as we were, some particles leapt out of the drum and slammed into the support beam or the floor, showing that we had slightly overestimated the volume capacity of the drum. Looking back on that day, I’m pleased to say that the drum is still standing tall and spinning true, and we achieved our scientific goal, finding that wear rates scale as a power function of the rate of energy expenditure.

4. What do you hope SEN will help the experimental community to achieve? In addition to the excellent goals that SEN was created to achieve, I hope SEN can help the experimental community stand together as one to protect our scientific enterprise from the anti-science rhetoric and policies of the new administration in Washington, and find ways to share with non-scientists our fascinating stories of discovery and the important contributions we make to understanding our world.