Bethany Brittenham, a senior majoring in Biological Systems Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a winner of the Dorothy Vorderstrasse Huge Scholarship, enjoyed an interesting summer interning with the Army Corps. of Engineers. A summary of her internship follows:
A majority of my work involved hydrologic surveys and bank characteristic surveys of the Missouri River and its confluences to model river structure and flow. Surveys used sonar and GPS to model flow rates, river depth, and create water surface profiles. The Missouri River is in a constant state of flux between aggradation and degradation based on location. One of the goals of the Corps is to ensure the river is navigable for commercial barges as well as private boats while maintaining constructed habitat for fish and other species in chutes, backwaters, and bends.
My favorite experience was surveying the Yellowstone River below Intake Dam in Glendive, Montana. Every year, the Yellowstone River floods in the spring, and due to a pending project, the river needed to be evaluated. The land and weather is beautiful in the spring, and surveying became more of being paid to hike along the river bank than work. I also found some great Moss Agate- a rock the region is known for.
Primarily, this internship solidified my interest in field work while developing a host of different marketable skills. I am proficient in setting up and running GPS surveys with Trimble units as well as basic trouble shooting. In the office, I mainly developed skills using HYPACK for confluence modeling of the river bottom to track the formation and movement of sandbars and develop water surface profiles. I also received brief instruction in software including WinRiver, HEC-RAS, DSS, and Microstation. While I am in no way an expert, a basic knowledge now will make more in-depth learning less of a foreign language.
Overall, my internship with the Corps provided a cradle to grave introduction to river system modeling and maintenance. Initially, I chose the internship based on the guaranteed field work experience coupled with travel along the Missouri River and its tributaries. While modeling isn’t my main interest, the process was rewarding and I developed applicable skills.