Sara Bangen

Job Title: Researcher - Fluvial Habitat Analyst
Primary Affiliation: Department of Watershed Sciences
Secondary Affiliation: Ecogeomorphology & Topographic Analysis Lab

Utah State University
Watershed Sciences Department
5210 Old Main Hill, NR 210
Logan UT 84322-5210

Office:  ECC 102

Research Gate

 Curriculum Vitae


  • 2006 BS. Environmental Science & Geography. University of Oregon, Eugene, OR.
  • 2013 MS. Watershed Sciences. Utah State University, Logan, UT.


  • General interests are in fluvial geomorphology, watershed processes, fish ecology, land use politics and how all of these elements interplay in the riverine systems of the West.
  • Current research is focused on CHaMP protocol development and deriving geomorphic units that are indicative of stream processes from topography (e.g. DEMs).
  • Graduate research was focused on: i) intercomparing the relative accuracy, precision and efficiency of using newer and established ground-based (e.g. total station, rtkGPS, terrestrial laser scanner) and airborne (e.g. LiDaR) surveying technologies to describe wadeable streambed and near-channel topography, and ii) quantifying the effect of observer variability on ground-based total station surveys.  Through these two studies we were able to provide valuable information related to the feasibility of applying  these technologies at the scale of large watershed habitat monitoring programs.   


Sara is a researcher in the ET-AL lab at Utah State University.  She graduated in  in 2006 from University of Oregon with a BS in Environmental Science and Geography. Since completing her undergraduate degree she has worked for several Columbia River Basin  instream habitat monitoring programs including NOAA's Integrated Status and Effectiveness Monitoring Program (ISEMP) and the United States Forest Service Pacfish/Infish Biological Opinion Monitoring Program (PIBO-EMP).  As well, Sara spent a year interning with the California Department of Fish and Game on the Northern California coast as an AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards Project (WSP) member.  She did her Masters in the ET-AL lab and defended in late 2012. She is staying on to continue working on CHaMP protocol development, development of topographically derived instream habitat units and the next generation of habitat metrics.

Current Projects

  • Developing a semi-automated approach to classify geomorphic units from topography
  • Using traditional suitability curve and fuzzy approaches to model salmon habitat quality in the Columbia River basin
  • Creating a more robust fuzzy inference system error model for DEMs derived from TS and rtkGPS surveys of wadeable stream and rivers 

Scholarly Contributions


  • Bangen S, McHugh P, Saunders W, Wall C, Bailey P, Wheaton JM. Bouwes N. Expert knowledge-based fuzzy habitat suitability models for steelhead and Chinook salmon. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. In Preparation.
  • Bangen S, Wheaton JM, Bouwes N, Fortney S. 2016. Mapping instream geomorphic units from high resolution topography. Geomorphology. In Preparation.
  • McHugh P, Saunders W, Bouwes N, Wall C, Bangen S, Wheaton JM, Jordan C, Nahorniak M, Ruzycki J, Tattam I. 2016. Linking models across scales to assess the viability and restoration potential of a threatened population of steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in the Middle Fork John Day River, Oregon, USA. Ecological Modelling. In Preparation.
  • Hensleigh J, Wheaton JM, McHugh P, Bangen S, Welcker C. 2016. Techniques for robustly developing spatially variable uncertainty models for digital elevation models using fuzzy inference systems. 2016. eSURF. In Preparation.
  • Wheaton JM, McHugh P, Bouwes N, Saunders W, Bangen S, Bailey P, Nahorniak M, Wall C, Jordan C. 2016. Upscaling site-scale ecohydraulic models to inform salmonid population-level life cycle modelling and restoration actions – Lessons from the Columbia River basin. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. In Review.
  • Bangen S, Hensleigh J, McHugh P, Wheaton JM. 2016. Error modeling of DEMs from topographic surveys of rivers using Fuzzy Inference Systems. Water Resources Research. DOI: 10.1002/2015WR018299.
  • Wheaton JM, Fryirs K, Brierley G, Bangen S, Bouwes N, O'Brien G. 2015. Geomorphic mapping of fluvial landscapes. Geomorphology. 248: 273-295. DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2015.07.010 
  • Bangen S, Wheaton JM, Bouwes N, Bouwes B, Jordan C. 2014. A methodological intercomparison of topographic survey techniques for characterizing instream habitat. Geomorphology. 206: 343-361. DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2013.10.010
  • Bangen S, Wheaton JM, Bouwes N, Jordan C, Volk C, Ward MB. 2014. Crew variability in topographic surveys for monitoring instream fish habitat: A case study from the Columbia River Basin. Earth Surface Process and Landforms. DOI: 10.1002/esp.3600
  • Bangen, SG. 2013. Comparison of topographic surveying techniques in streams. MS Thesis. Utah State University.

Conference Papers, Presentations & Posters

  • Poster: Bangen SG, Wheaton JM, and Bouwes, N. 2011. Methodological Intercomparison of Topographic & Aerial Photographic Habitat Survey Techniques, American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, Seattle, WA.
  • Poster: Bangen SG, Wheaton JM, and Bouwes, N. 2011. Crew Variability in Topographic Data: Can Large Stream Habitat Monitoring Programs Reliably Sample Habitat?, American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA.
  • Poster:  Portugal EP, Bangen SG and Wheaton JM.  2011. The Relative Importance of Insterting IN Breaklines in DEM Creation, AGU Fall Meeting 2011.  American Geophysical Union: San Francisco, CA, H51I-1312.
  • Presentation: Wheaton JM and Bangen SG. 2011. Crew Variability in Topographic Data, Columbia Habitat Monitoring Program Post Pilot Season Workshop.  NOAA: Portland, OR
  • Presentation: Wheaton JM, Bangen SG and Portugal EP. 2011. Topographic Survey Comparisons, Columbia Habitat Monitoring Program Post Pilot Season Workshop.  NOAA: Portland, OR
  • Poster: Bangen SG, Wheaton JM, and Bouwes, N. 2010. Quantifying Stream Habitat: Relative Effort versus Quality of Competing Remote Sensing & Ground-based Survey Techniques, American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA.


♠ Bangen contributing author.