Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Suzanne P. Anderson

Second Advisor

Robert S. Anderson

Third Advisor

Holly Barnard


In rock below the surface, temperature swings are damped, water flow is limited, and biota are few. Yet rock weathers, presumably driven by environmental parameters. I use rock strength as an indicator of rock weathering in Gordon Gulch in the Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory, a watershed at 2500 m underlain by Proterozoic gneiss intruded by the Boulder Creek granodiorite. I use the Brazilian splitting test to determine tensile strength of cores collected with a portable drilling rig. Spatial variations in rock strength that we measure in the top 2 m of the weathered rock mantle can be connected to two specific environmental variables: slope aspect and the presence of a soil mantle. I find weaker rock on N-facing slopes and under soil. Water is more effectively delivered to the subsurface on N-facing slopes, and is more likely held against rock surfaces under soil than on outcrops.