Samantha Motz


Years participated in RESESS: 2021


An Overview

Major: Earth & Atmospheric Sciences

Academic Affiliation: Georgia Institute of Technology

Mentors: Dr. Kamini Singha


Samantha Motz is an undergraduate studying Earth & Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Previously, she attended Georgia State University where she discovered her passion for Earth Sciences and earned her Associate’s degree in Geology. Samantha’s 2021 RESESS experience was spent analyzing the influence of topography on stability, discharge, and conductivity in the Hotel Gulch Watershed. Following her graduation in 2022, Samantha plans to attend graduate school and play an active role in making science more accessible to the general public.


The climate and hydrological cycle are intertwined; therefore, as climate changes, the
importance of comprehending our water systems is critical. Water storage and transport
are influenced by topography but given how spatially variable topography can be and
the limited number of studies on this interaction, the full extent of topography’s
influence remains unclear. To investigate how topography impacts the hydrology of
Hotel Gulch, Colorado, we measured slope, aspect, curvature, upstream area, and
topographic wetness index at eight sites in this headwater catchment and compared
these metrics to the respective stream discharge and specific conductivity for each site.
Hotel Gulch lies in the southern part of Colorado’s Front Range. Hotel Gulch’s semi-arid
climate and mountainous topography make it especially sensitive to changes in climate;
consequently, it is an ideal research site for determining how climate change will impact
watersheds in the near future. This research is accompanied by a companion study that
measures discharge and specific conductivity in stilling wells at the same eight sites. In
this work, we present the slope and upstream area as an indication of hydrologic
parameters—discharge and specific conductivity— through the topographic wetness
index. These results give us insight into the dynamics of topography’s influence in the
hydrologic system, which will improve our perception of our water systems in response
to climate change.