Reconfiguring the life blood of metropolitan Phoenix: Reconstructing big changes in the channel profile of the Salt River

Photo of ASU stadium with A Mountain and the Salt River in the background

About this research opportunity

All ASU Online Students taking GPH 211 (Fall session B: a 4 credit class meeting SQ as well as Science & Society CLAS requirements) are welcome to complete their science laboratory experience by joining this research project to understand how the Salt River's channel changed over millions of years. The GPH 211 course called "Landform Processes" is a no-prerequisite course that explores the science of geomorphology. Most people encounter this field when they see a news video about a spectacular landslide or giant flood, or even a tsunami seismic wave hitting a crowded coastal city. This fully online asynchronous class has different types of laboratory experiences: virtual field trips; quick Google Earth investigations; and longer labs.

All students will have the option of completing the regular longer experiences (worth 35% of the grade), or having this portion of the grade conducting research about how the Salt River developed. The time commitment will be identical for the regular long labs or this research experience. 

The Salt River system supplies about 60% of the water used in metropolitan Phoenix, and this water has been an integral part of society here for over a millennia. Students will be taking brand new, unpublished state-of-the-art data about the position of the Salt River over the last 5 million years -- "snapshots" of where it was at specific places at specific times. These data involve cosmogenic nuclides beryllium-10 and aluminum-26. The research will be to put together the story of change between these snapshots. The methods you will use will be equivalent to manipulating excel spreadsheets, and your research findings will be well worthy of publication in a top scientific journal. You will not have to take the complicated step of publishing your research findings, but all participants in the OURS research experience will be given the chance to accomplish this after the Session B course is over as an independent study either for GPH 499 credit or just for the experience.

You will work individually on your piece of the research, where your grade does not depend on the work of others. However, part of the research experience is to feel a part of a team, and you will have the option of sharing your work with others doing similar research. The idea is that those going through a research process often get energized by sharing similar experiences -- as long as this is not a requirement for a grade. That is because of the very busy and complicated lives led by ASU online students. The idea is simply to have a great research experience, where options exist to share and to continue the research to the point of a publication. Every additional opportunity beyond what you would do for the class grade is a plus. There can be no "negative" consequences for stopping at any point.


All ASU Online students pursuing a degree program through The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences enrolled in the GPH 211 course are eligible to participate. 

Prof. Ronald Dorn
Course credit?
How to apply

Please contact Prof. Dorn ( if you would like to participate in this special opportunity within the GPH 211 (fall session B) course.

Contact information

Prof. Ronald Dorn (

Additional program details

7.5 Weeks