Robbie Queen: Graduating Researcher of the Hydro Research Foundation

Editor’s Note: This is the most recent in a series of profiles provided by the Hydro Research Foundation that highlight potential future members of the hydroelectric power industry and their accomplishments.

The Hydro Research Foundation is actively supporting graduate students to conduct research related to conventional and pumped storage hydropower.  These students are funded through the Department of Energy’s Water Power Program and industry partners through a four-year grant.

Robbie Queen is completing his Master of Science at Colorado State University in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the hydraulics, stream restoration and river mechanics program. His master’s thesis focused on sedimentation and sediment transport around low-head run-of-river dams.

Queen grew up in the foothills west of Denver where he found joy in the many outdoor activities such as hiking, camping and running. For his undergraduate degree, he did a combined plan program where he attended both Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., and Columbia University in New York City, receiving degrees in physics and civil engineering. After graduating, he moved back to Colorado and worked for AECOM (formally URS) for two years as a water resources engineer where he worked on a wide range of projects in the water resources field such as floodplain modeling and transportation drainage engineering.

Queen is wrapping up research on Morphodynamic modeling of flow and sediment transport over low‐head, run‐of‐river dams. He is working with Dr. Peter Nelson and being mentored by Achilleas Tsarkiris with Northwest Hydraulic Consultants and Dr. Adam Witt of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The hydraulics, sedimentation, and upstream and downstream effects of run-of-river dams are largely unstudied, and the few studies that have been done have reported considerable variability in sedimentation upstream of run-of-river dams. The extent to which these dams constitute sediment traps, and the consequent environmental effects from stream discontinuities that may emerge, is not fully known. The primary objective of this proposed research is to use numerical morphodynamic modeling to investigate the mechanisms of flow and sediment transport over run-of-river dams, and their potential effects on upstream and downstream geomorphology, sedimentation, and aquatic habitat.

To test these hypotheses, the project will conduct a series of modeling runs where the discharge, sediment supply, sediment grain size distribution, channel slope, and dam height will be systematically varied and equilibrium channel morphologies will be predicted. This ensemble of model runs will provide a general understanding of the important controls on sediment storage behind run-of-river dams, and the upstream and downstream effects of run-of-river dams on channel geomorphology.

These simulations will allow me to explore a wide parameter space of potentially important controls, enabling me to develop scaling relations between the passage of sediment in terms of grain size, dam height, and flow parameters, which (along with the models themselves) could be used as management tools. The one-dimensional morphodynamic model, as well as any changes to the two-dimensional morphodynamic model source code, will be incorporated into the iRIC interface and distribution. In this manner, these modeling tools and associated tutorials and user guides will be available to anyone interested in applying them to specific run-of-river projects or other river management situations.

Robbie Queen is excited to begin work at Stantec following his research award. To connect with Robbie or learn more about the Research Awards Program please email or visit the website

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