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Wolfram Summer School

June 24–July 14, 2018
Bentley University, Waltham, MA


Jesse Pisel

Class of 2014


Jesse is a PhD student in geology at the Colorado School of Mines. He received a BA from Western State Colorado University in geology before making the move to Mines. His research focuses on river systems and how they are preserved in the stratigraphic record, specifically quantitative metrics that can be used to compare physical experiments and numerical models with what has been documented in the field. Using a combination of modern mapping techniques and spatial statistics, he is bridging the gap between field geology and quantitative analysis of these river systems. When he is not working on his dissertation, you can find him out in the wild areas of Colorado or Utah, either hiking with his wife and dogs or riding his bike.


Understanding patterns in landscapes around the world and on other planets is important for both geomorphologists and geologists. Currently most landscapes are analyzed using a combination of remote sensing (LIDAR, satellite images, digital elevation models), and traditional field surveying techniques. Due to the time-intensive nature of field surveying to ground truth remotely sensed data, most studies to date have focused on small drainage basins or river deltas to document and analyze in detail. In order to address these issues, my project focuses on documenting fractal patterns in erosional and depositional landscapes of rivers and deltas around the globe.

Using a feature-tracking algorithm and 3 m resolution topography data, I will automate a function to track rivers and all their tributaries from their headwaters to deltas. I will then use the quantitative data from the river tracking to compare morphology for all drainage basins on earth. Further applications of this method include mapping and quantifying landscapes from (1) other planets (Mars, Titan, etc.), and (2) numerical forward models of landscape evolution.

Satellite image of a small area within the Amazon drainage basin:

Topography image of the same area within the Amazon drainage basin: (White areas are higher elevations while black areas are lower elevations.)

Favorite Outer Totalistic r=1, k=2 2D Cellular Automaton

Rule 80401