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 the Context

  Research Focus
  Background Info
  Research Methods
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  Results of Study
  Data Analysis
  Further Research


  Research Question
  Background Info
  Research Methods
  Data Submission
  Results of Study
  Data Analysis
  Further Research
  Research Values


  Doing Research

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Visual Survey Background
[Research Methodology]

The purpose of the visual survey is to determine if there are observable problems on the stream and to characterize the land area and environment through which the stream flows. Representing the stream in the form of a watershed map is a good way to begin. The visual survey will help ground-truth the map and add detail. It may also pinpoint any areas that may be sources of water quality problems. It will also help the monitors become more familiar with the overall conditions of the stream.

The visual survey for the monitoring sites should be conducted twice each year, once with the foliage present (late spring/summer) and once with the foliage absent (winter/early spring).


The use of maps is important for several reasons. We can use topography maps to locate a stream's watershed. Then we can look for potential sources of pollutants in the watershed such as water treatment plants, landfills, military bases, industries, golf courses, roadways, pipelines, slaughter houses, et cetera. We also use maps to determine a stream's order. Finally, we use maps to be able to locate precisely the exact location of our test site so that others may be able to follow up on our work.

There are two ways to precisely locate a position using a map. One method is to use longitude and latitude coordinates. The other method uses section, township and range.

Longitude and Latitude

Lines of longitude are imaginary lines on the earth that run from pole to pole. They are measured in degrees east or west from the Prime Meridian found in England. Degrees can be broken down into minutes and seconds. There are 60 seconds in one minute and 60 minutes in one degree.

Lines of latitude are imaginary lines that circle the earth parallel to the equator. They are measured in degrees north or south from the equator. To locate a place using longitude and latitude, one must determine where the two lines cross. For example, Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO is located at longitude west 94, 33 minutes, 9 seconds and latitude north 39, 1 minute, 45 seconds.

Stream Orders

As streams increase in flow and join with other streams, a branching network is established. From above, a stream network appears much like the branches of a tree. This network from headwaters to the river mouth is called a stream system. A numbering method has been devised to describe the relative position and size of a stream within a river system. The beginning of a stream is described as a first-order stream. Two first- order streams join to form a second-order stream. Two second-order streams join to form a third-order stream, and so on. The Mississippi River nears its mouth is considered to be a twelfth-order river!

Using Geographic Information Systems for Analysis

A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer-based tool for mapping and analyzing things that exist and events that happen on earth. The data that we have collected as a part of this project is well suited to GIS technology because it has a critical geographic dimension. GIS integrates common database operations such as query and statistical analysis with the unique visualization and geographic analysis benefits offered by maps. These abilities distinguish GIS from other types of analysis.
Mapmaking and geographic analysis are not new, but a GIS performs these tasks better and faster than do the old manual methods. And, before GIS technology, only a few people had the skills necessary to use geographic information to help with decision making and problem solving. A GIS stores information about the world as a collection of thematic layers that can be linked together by geography. This simple but extremely powerful and versatile many real-world problems from tracking delivery vehicles, to recording details of planning applications, to modeling global atmospheric circulation. Links to using GIS to analyze your stream data are in the Data Analysis section, to see the watersheds in Kansas click on the link Kansas Watersheds

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