Latest news on Confluence:
streamwater, handwriting and urban curbs
October, 2015
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The experimental stream channels at Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory (SNARL) are identical zigzags on an even slope adjacent to Convict Creek just south of the field station. WhileI was there in August, UC Riverside grad student Parsa Saffarinia was finishing a summer of monitoring stream vitality, using the channels to mimic what may become of waterways with greater swings from high to low flows and warmer temperatures overall . At 25, 50, 75 percent, how does diversity and quantity change the very complex ecology of a freshwater stream? The drone whirring in the sky is his, as we ended up photographing each other photographing the site - a zigzag of its own.

And great news! Confluence received a grant from the Jiji Foundation, whose mission is to support research, conservation and education on environmental issues in California and Baja California.
The channels, completed in 1991, added a tool to experiments in natural and managed streams by allowing reliable comparisons between identical channels. Though some important natural stream elements are missing, like shade from bank vegetation,  the channel cross sections and sequences of curves were carefully designed to mimic natural forms.
Mysterious and fundamental companion: like light, water itself is invisible, yet becomes known by how it is contained,  what it carries or reflects.
While based at SNARL, I made trips through the usually-dry and remarkable landscapes of the Owens Valley. The gravel roads of Fish Slough north of Bishop  brought me to petroglyph sites of a culture who knew very well the frugal ways of water.
And at about 9,000' elevation Convict Creek, a typical oligotrophic (low nutrient) mountain stream, runs through coarsely broken, metamorphosed rocks that were once sediments of the continental edge.
I want the flow and adaptive quirks of a cursive font to communicate my observations of stream science and landscape change - a font made from an historical person's handwriting. Last week I looked through archives in the Special Collections of the University of Nevada at Reno, and the Nevada Historical Society. Among many examples, this early 20th C fragment from the papers of Judge George A. Bartlett stuck in my mind. His 'commencement' in the fourth line contains its own impatience to begin 'operations'. Perhaps a return to writing's pictographic origins?
For more about the Confluence projects, please visit my page at

For the September 2015 newsletter click HERE
For the August 2015 newsletter click HERE

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