Title page for ETD etd-05122012-021853

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Kreider, Tyler A.
URN etd-05122012-021853
Title Rare Earth Elements as a Tracer to Understand Sediment Fate and Transport in Small Streams
Degree Master of Science
Department Biological Systems Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Hession, W. Cully Committee Co-Chair
McGuire, Kevin J. Committee Co-Chair
Buda, Anthony Committee Member
Strahm, Brian D. Committee Member
  • stream bank erosion
  • sediment fate and transport
  • adsorption isotherm
  • rare earth elements
Date of Defense 2012-04-23
Availability unrestricted
Sediment is a major source of water quality impairment in streams, rivers and lakes in

the US. However, sediment fate and transport in small streams is poorly understood. Previous

attempts to characterize sediment transport often insufficiently represented the physical and

chemical sediment properties and lacked spatial and/or temporal resolution. Therefore, there is

a need to develop better sediment tracers, for which rare earth element (REE)-labeled sediment

is examined as an alternative. The objectives of this study were to: 1) assess the adsorption of

REEs to natural soils and ensure their reliability as a tracer in a fluvial environment; and

2) evaluate the efficacy of utilizing REE-labeled sediment to quantify fate and transport in a

second-order stream during a series of storm events.

Two natural stream bank soils from Stroubles Creek in Virginia were labeled with the

REEs lanthanum and ytterbium. The REEs adsorbed equally to both soils and had minimal

desorption after several washes with stream water. This suggests that REEs form a dependable

natural sediment tracer and sufficiently label natural soils for use in a sediment tracing study.

During two storm events, two unique REE tracers were injected into Stroubles Creek.

These tracers were detected at varying discharges and sediment loads in bed and suspended

sediment samples up to 875 m downstream. REE tracers proved to be an ideal tracer for

detecting sediment fate and transport in a small stream during a series of storm events and hold

great potential for evaluating best management practices and sediment transport models.

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