In 1995, Indiana University, through the Judson Mead Geologic Field Station, instituted a 400 km2 (160-mi2) Demonstration Watershed in part of the Willow Creek Drainage, Madison County, Montana. While the watershed is used extensively as part of our field instruction, the materials and data are available for use by other groups. Please contact the field station for other resources related to the WCDW such as aerial photographs, field photographs, well logs, stream gaging station descriptions, and data achieves.
The Willow Creek Demonstration watershed was created in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Madison Conservation District. From the outset, the Willow Creek Demonstration Watershed (WCDW) has been designed to facilitate three basic components of the Judson Mead Geologic Field Station: teaching, research, and outreach. Integral with the design of the watershed was the development of a state-of-the-art curriculum aimed at interdisciplinary training in environmental science (Douglas et al., 1996). The new field course, Geological Science G329, which has become highly successful, utilizes the WCDW for instruction that includes collection and analysis of data on: bedrock and surficial geology, slope stability, vegetation, water budgets, surface–and ground–water quality, biologic conditions of streams and riparian habitats, and land use. The WCDW also became a focus of the environmental component of G429e, introduced at this same time. A number of research projects have also been initiated including hydrologic studies, the geologic framework of the area (Douglas et al., 1997; Elliott, 1998a, 1998b; Elliott et al., 2002), and remote sensing studies coupled with WCDW data to develop a physically based model for forecasting timing and patterns of snowmelt in the headwaters of the drainage (Letsinger, 2001).
The WCDW is typical of many snowmelt-driven intermontane drainage systems in the northern Rocky Mountains region whose natural ecosystems are being increasingly influenced by human impacts, and where issues of land-use management and resource exploitation are at a critical juncture (e.g., Adams, 1995). By clearly understanding how natural systems interact with human activities in the geologically and climatologically complex setting, it will be possible to effectively evaluate the effects of land use on the area and ultimately improve management practices within the entire region.
Curriculum Development for Interdisciplinary Field Courses in Environmental Geosciences Douglas, Olyphant, Suttner, and Boone), NSF- Div. Undergraduate Education, 6/96 - 5/99, $130,000
Field and Laboratory Equipment for Student Training in Environmental Geosciences (Douglas, Olyphant, Brophy, and Suttner), NSF- Div. Undergraduate Education, 6/97 - 5/99, $48,524
Field and Laboratory Equipment for Student Training in Environmental Geosciences (Douglas, Olyphant, Brophy, and Suttner), RUGS (match by IU for NSF funds), 6/97 - 5/99, $48,524
Our approach to the study of the Willow Creek Watershed is long term, beginning with the installation of permanent monitoring sites in 1995. The kinds of opportunities that can be pursued in the future are quite varied and exciting. Because the WCDW is not a sterile laboratory, we have the opportunity to apply research to real–world problems in the region.
The conditions in the WCDW typify the complex physical interactions that take place in areas that span from high alpine to high planes. Funding to create the watershed came from the alumni of the field programs, the State of Montana, Indiana University, and the National Science Foundation. Students and faculty of Indiana University Department of Geological Sciences have installed permanent stations for monitoring hydrologic and weather conditions in the watershed; these comprise diverse set of permanent instrument arrays are located in the Willow Creek watershed. A long-standing, formal Memorandum of Understanding between the university and several federal and local government agencies and local ranchers is involved in this instrumented watershed. We have been conducting research, teaching, and outreach, based on the unique data available in the watershed, for the past eight years.