2024 Undergraduate Research Showcase

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Nick Nudyma


Rockfall events are a geohazard that can pose a significant threat to infrastructure and life in mountainous areas. The trigger mechanism for these events varies but is usually due to undercutting of an existing slope, physical weathering including freeze/thaw cycles, anthropogenic factors such as excavation, environmental factors, and seismic events. Corrective measures are expensive and involve using nets, anchor bolts, or removing hazardous rock masses. Historically, two-dimensional modeling techniques have been used for sites where rockfall is a risk but these are limited in their functionality and accuracy. Three-dimensional modeling techniques are currently evolving and being used to accurately predict where boulders that detach from the slope will land. My study aims to address current issues with using a three-dimensional rockfall model such as data collection, required inputs, accuracy, and calibration. For this portion of my study, I will be comparing models created using site-specific LiDAR data and downsampling the point cloud to analyze the effects of topography resolution and boulder size on the distribution of the final resting boulder locations, known as dispersion. I hypothesize boulders in models with higher-resolution topography will have a tighter dispersion when compared to lower-resolution topography. I will continue to work on this research topic as a master's student and further investigate how the dispersion of boulders compares with terrain resolution. From this research, I hope to produce a three-dimensional calibrated rockfall model for this site.