Frank Heitmuller

Assistant Professor of Geology

 

EDUCATION

B.S. 1998 Florida State University
M.A. 2002 The University of Texas at Austin
Ph.D. 2009 The University of Texas at Austin

 

TEACHING INTERESTS

  • GLY 101 Physical Geology
  • GLY 310 Geomorphology
  • GLY 405 Sedimentology

 

RESEARCH INTERESTS

Fluvial Geomorphology, Surface-water Hydrology, Instream-flow Science

My academic and professional research primarily focuses on theoretical and applied problems in fluvial geomorphology and surface-water hydrology. As a graduate student, I have worked on projects associated with overbank sedimentation rates and patterns of large, coastal-draining alluvial rivers, floodplain hydrology, downstream characteristics of channel-bed and bank material, and the role of dominant discharge on channel adjustment of a flood-prone fluvial system. As a former employee of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), I worked on projects associated with the potential for bed-material entrainment in a high-energy cobble- and gravel-bed fluvial system, historical adjustment of large, coastal-draining alluvial rivers using discharge measurement data, geomorphic classification of river systems, historical water-quantity and quality of springs in Texas, indirect methods to determine peak discharge, and batch streamflow statistics, among other projects. My research has allowed me to work with geographers, geologists, hydrologic engineers, transportation engineers, aquatic biologists, and water managers, both from academia and professional agencies and firms. It is this blend of framing and testing questions about the conceptual framework of the discipline(s) with various global, regional, or local problems that drives my research efforts.

For future lines of research, I would like to investigate the roles of natural and anthropogenic influences on underrepresented fluvial systems, possibly with a major thrust in the Gulf Coastal Plain. Although much research has been devoted to the Lower Mississippi River and large basins in Texas, less is known about other systems and their response to Quaternary climate change and anthropogenic influences. An opportunity exists to investigate the sedimentology, hydrology, and historical adjustment of highly-regulated (e.g., Chattahoochee/Apalachicola and Alabama/Tombigbee/Mobile Rivers) and relatively unregulated (e.g., Leaf/Pascagoula Rivers) systems along the Gulf Coast. Other opportunities to investigate controls and responses of underrepresented fluvial systems are available in Central America, and I hope to draw upon previous research efforts in Mexico and a conceptual framework for environmental change in Latin America that I developed at UT-Austin to propose work in this region. Additionally, I hope to continue geomorphic and hydrologic research related to instream flow programs in regulated river systems of the southeastern and south-central United States, possibly taking these concepts to fluvial systems in other countries if given the opportunity. Instream flow programs are mostly crafted and directed by aquatic biologists, and much work remains to couple geomorphic and ecological concepts and methods. Other lines of geomorphic research that I will continue to pursue are topics and problems associated with infrastructure development and channel rehabilitation. The engineering community presently saturates these applied projects, but results have shown that better strategies and structural designs require well-trained practitioners in fluvial geomorphology.