Field Work

Amazon River expedition 2016.

The large rivers Group of Prof. Latrubesse conducted fieldwork in the Amazon basin during the summer of 2016, supported by the ongoing NSF projects (EAR-FESD and GSB-DDRI) and the International Brazilian Sciences Without Borders Program. The field work covered the entire middle to lower reach of the Amazon River, from Manaus to Monte Alegre (approximately 800 km reach) and consisted of more than 1200 miles of geophysical fluvial survey, geomorphic descriptions and water and sediment sampling. The field campaign lead by Prof. Latrubesse was conducted with Edward Park (UT-Austin, Prof. Latrubesse’s doctoral candidate), Prof. Maximiliano Bayer (UFG-Brazil), Landerlei Almeida (UNESP, Prof. Latrubesse’s doctoral student), and Xiwei Guo (UT-Austin, Prof. Latrubesse’s master student). The main objective was collecting hydrophysical and geologic data to understand the functioning and evolution of the Amazon River. It also supported the Doctoral dissertation research project of Edward Park (PhD Candidate).The primary goal of the research was to investigate the potential existence of multiple Quaternary terraces in the lower Amazon, the role of large tributaries (e.g. Negro, Madeira and Tapajos Rivers) and vast floodplains on suspended sediment transport patterns along the anabranching main channel of the Amazon River. Floodplains are key features in understanding the sediment dynamics of the Amazon, as these floodplains are long term incomplete and active sedimentary sinks storing hundreds of million tons of sediment each year since the late Pleistocene. The team collected river flow velocity and acoustic backscatter data using Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP, RDI’s Rio Grande), side-scan images (and nadir depth) to investigate bed morphology using Humminbird HD 899c, a Hanna Water Quality Meter (pH, temperature, turbidity, etc.), and collected more than 100 suspended sediment samples and over 20 20-Liter buckets of water samples to assess the sediment concentration and grain size distribution of suspended sediments along the Amazon River and major floodplains lakes. Sub-bottom profiler (SyQwest’s StrataBox) was employed to assess the sub-bottom geology and sedimentary architecture.


  1. The team measuring with a boat the water discharge at Obidos, the lowermost gauge station of the Amazon River. From left to right: Landerlei Almeida Santos (UNESP-Brazil). Prof. Latrubesse, Edward Park, Prof. Maximiliano Bayer (UFG) and Xiwei Guo.
  2. Sedimentological survey in the Amazon’s banks
  3. Living and working at the Captain Brandao ship.


AMAZON Basin (2015)

The large rivers Group of Prof. Latrubesse conducted fieldwork in the Amazon basin related to ongoing NSF and Science without Borders-CAPEs projects in the summer of 2015. The first field stage involved paleoecological and Quaternary research in Brazilian Southwestern Amazon with colleagues from University of Acre and University of Rochester. The second field phase took place along the Amazon River in between the confluences with Negro and Madeira Rivers. This study is part of the research project of Doctoral Candidate Edward Park and the field work was developed in collaboration with Prof. Maximiliano Bayer (UFG-Brazil) and Prof. Latrubesse’s Brazilian graduate student, Landerlei Almeida (UNESP). The research objectives aims to investigate the impacts of tributaries on suspended sediment distribution patterns along the anabranching main channel of the Amazon River. The Amazon confluences with the Negro River is the largest on Earth in water discharge where distinct water types meet: Solimões-Amazon (muddy white water) and Negro (black water) Rivers. They collected water velocity and acoustic backscatter data using Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) from critical transects along the Amazon River. Acoustic backscatter data is particularly important because it could be calibrated with suspended and bed loads to calculate the total sediment flux of the river. Along with ADCP data, they also collected water quality data (pH, temperature, turbidity, etc.) at a multiple depth using Hanna Water Quality Meter, bathymetric data using Furuno Multi-beam Echo Sounder and Humminbird Side-scan Sonar, surface sediment on river and floodplains, and lake sediment cores in floodplains. Results on surface water patterns were recently published in the prestigious journal Water Resources Research (Park and Latrubesse, 2015) under the title “Surface water types and sediment distribution patterns at the confluence of mega rivers: The Solimões-Amazon and Negro Rivers”.

The third field phase concentrated in the upper Amazon in Peruvian territory. Prof. Latrubesse conducted geomorphologic studies to reconstruct the paleogeography of the Amazon basin as part of the ongoing NSF-FESD project. Prof. Thomas Dunne (UCSB) and Prof. Rolf Aalto (U. of Exeter) joined this field expedition.

The team also attended the 9th Symposium of River Coastal and Estuarine Morphodynamics (RCEM). Prof. Latrubesse is member of the International Advisory Board of the organization, and he was in charge of a field course on the Amazon titled The Amazon River from late Tertiary to present: paleogeographic reorganization of the basin, Quaternary record and present morphodynamic. Doctoral Candidate Edward Park offered an oral presentation and attended an advance course on the use of Acoustic Doppler Profilers.


MADEIRA RIVER  (2011–2012-2013)

Long field expeditions to the Madeira river were carried out during the summer of 2011,  December 2012  as part of the National Geographic project Exploring a soon to be lost Amazon world: a geomorphologic, paleontologic  and geo-archaeologic expedition to the Madeira River and the NSF project Morphodynamics of the Madeira River: An Amazonian Anabranching Mega-River Facing Imminent Disruption.  Participated in these expeditions Dr. Samia Aquino (UT-Austin), Prof. Jorge bad (Univ. of Pittsburgh), Prof. Naziano Filizola (UFAM), Prof. Jose. C. Stevaux (UNESP) and the graduated students Harumi Fujita (UNESP-UNIOESTE), Christine Bonthius (UT-Austin), Michele Tizuka (UNESP) and Christian Frias (Univ. Pittsburgh). The researchers had the support of paleontologist and archeologist of Scientia, a specialized firm in geoarcheology  and paleontology that is in charge of rescuing the archeological remains before being  flooded by the dams under construction in the Madeira river. The team was collecting Quaternary Geology, hydro-geomorphologic, sedimentologic , hydraulic and morphodynamics information and used acoustic Doppler ADCP, echosound coupled to a GPS, a dual frequency Stratabox and other equipment.



An exploratory field trip was carried out by Prof. Latrubesse and Prof. Maximiliano Bayer (Universidade Federal de Goias, Brazil) during the summer field season of 2011 to assess the potential impact by dams in Xingú river where a major, billionaire and controversial  hydropower enterprise, the Monte Belo dam, is planned to be constructed by the Brazilian government.   Bayer and Latrubesse travelled by boat more than 350 miles collecting geomorphologic and sedimentologic informationalong the Xingu River, one of the most beautiful and pristine areas of the Amazon basin that unfortunately is endanger because the dam construction.

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