iUTAH Undergraduate iFellows
Week 3 Recap
May 29- June 2, 2017
This was a short week, but there was a ton going on. Tuesday was spent developing the Green Meadows site again, where we made a ton of progress. Wednesday was pretty interesting since I got to help out on installing sampling hardware in a river in Brigham City, where I was able to wade in the river on a sunny day. Dr. Weidhaas from the U came to show us how to process samples to extract cells from the water so she can do further analysis to determine species of origin. The IDEXX equipment also came in and we were able to run samples from wastewater treatment plants and from irrigation canals in Logan.
This week we found more sites to take measurements in Weber and Morgan counties. We were also granted access to a site that has been on our priority list so that was great news! The process of taking measurements and assessing geomorphic condition is running more smoothly now as we are becoming more familiar with the equipment. We visited a site near the North Ogden divide on Thursday where it appears someone has cemented the edges of Chicken Creek. Why? I’m not sure, but it doesn’t seem like good fish habitat to me…
This week Andy and I worked on field training. I focused on getting acquainted with local bird species we will likely find in the field, and proper pacing and flagging methods. I met with Chris Cox and discussed the Logan GAMUT sites, which helped establish logistics for flagging and surveying sites. I worked on formulating a structural equation model for our data, and a preliminary draft of the first two sections of my poster. I also picked up the motorpool vehicle I will be using to take to Provo and the procedures for using it and the gas card.
It was a very successful week! We are working on building a model of the Bear River. We were able to collect a lot of the water right and flow data we needed to finish the model. We spent a good amount of time organizing that data so we could easily put it into the model. I was also able to formulate a good final version of my research question. Once I finally had that worked out I was able to write my introduction and methods sections for my project/poster. The graduate students I share an office with and I decided to move the desks around and make the room a bit more open to help our creativity flow! All in all, it was a successful week.
This was a productive week as we traveled to many beautiful sites. We visited several tributaries to the Weber and Ogden rivers in the Weber Basin Watershed including sites in Morgan, Summit and Weber counties. We identified barriers at several sites such as Chicken Cr. (Weber county) and Lost Cr. (Morgan county, above the reservoir) which can be used to verify predicted modeled locations.
Unfortunately, with higher temperatures this week, the flow of many of the sites we visited was too high to wade in to take velocity and discharge measurements, though we were able to gather other data. We will revisit these sites in the coming weeks.
This week was spent out in the ‘field’ continuing the process of sampling the 30 blocks we need to gather for data. It has been fun and crazy how fast I’m starting to recognize the different species of trees. Another cool thing is that as I’ve been walking around, I have had multiple opportunities to explain to people what I’m doing and what iUTAH is all about. I also spend a few hours at the County Assessor’s office gathering data of the property ages and taxable value in order to input all data into a data sheet and worked on the data and methods part of my project in preparation for the Cohort Session on Monday.
If I could send a title with this weeks update it would be: My forearms hurt. With good reason to. On Tuesday, after a full day, the lab got together in Rock Canyon and went rock climbing for 3 hours. It was great to spend time with the other students in a non school environment. We were originally going to eat dinner too but that didn't quit work out. On Wednesday, we spent 3-4 hours filtering water samples through .45 micrometer filters. This was hard work as my back, shoulders, biceps and forearms gradually got tired. Then on Friday, after spending a whole day field sampling, we returned to the lab and filtered our new water samples with more .45 micrometer filters. Who needs a gym when you can get a full upper body work out from filtering water samples?
This week was capped off with some moderate success. We tried using the portable vacuum pump on Friday during our field sampling excursion. The team has been attempting to use the vacuum pump to extract soil water as the snow melts during the spring and summer seasons. The purpose of this is too further analyze mercury movement in the ecology. However, past attempts have been unfruitful, until Friday. We extracted 60ml of soil water, which isn't enough for all the required analysis, but was significantly more soil water than in past attempts. We are hoping to do better at timing the snow melt so that we can begin extraction during peak soil saturation.
This week I spent a lot of time outside in Red Butte Garden, which was amazing! Kai and I spent three days measuring stomatal conductance, photosynthesis, and transpiration among other things with the LiCor, to eventually compare to the measurements Kai takes in the middle of the night. This project is looking at nighttime stomatal conductance, when plants open their stomata at night (photosynthesis is not possible) and seemingly lose water—something that evolutionarily doesn’t make sense. Bill ran through a quick training as well on using the LiCor, and we’ll start taking measurements in the growth chamber in about two weeks.
This week I finally got to go out into the field to conduct some spring sampling along with identifying viable well sites for one of the master's students in our Lab out in Skull Valley. Field work as it turns out is a lot of trouble shooting. Finding viable well sites that our lab can both have access to and contain water to sample from proved to be a bit more troublesome than I had anticipated. The human aspect of research became very this week out in Skull Valley. We spent a lot of time asking for permission from private landowners if we could have access to their wells in the future, we spent a good amount of time figuring out which sites we would need to contact BLM colleagues for access to wells, and a surprising amount of the day talking to community leaders of the township Iosepa. Iosepa was once home to over 200 Hawaiian members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church) and was inhabited between 1889-1917. Today, it is the site of an annual Memorial Day gathering that, as we found out, draws islanders ad others from all over. We had the chance to talk to them about their relationship to water in the West Desert and learn about the well that they use on the settlement. It was an unexpected part of the field trip but showed me a glimpse of the varying communities that cherish and rely on the ecosystem of the West Desert.
This week I was able to read some articles about different protocols about measuring toxins, and how to use the Utermohl Chambers. I also got to look at some metadata and summarize all of it. The data was all about the E coli results that they have been doing for two years now. I also got to add the data into the master sheet and add more data onto our water sampling sheet. We also got to go to Farmington Bay, where we took samples. Except we only made it to the third site before we realized that it was going to be too shallow. We also hit the prop, which really slowed us down trying to get back. But we did get to see a lot of bison and look at all the birds. I also got to settle some water and look at it under a microscope. We saw a cyanobacteria, which is something that we weren’t expecting to see. We weren’t able to continue because we didn’t know how to work the microscope, so we had to stop looking at our samples. But overall this week has been amazing with a lot of fun and I am really excited to see how the project progresses.
This week we went to Deer Creek Reservoir and Farmington Bay to take some water samples. At Farmington Bay we saw some bison. One of our O-rings for our water filter malfunctioned in the fields so we had to improvise a bit. This is a good lesson to keep a few extras around in case things happen. I was also able to digitize some old research from the 70’s. Erin found some graduate degree research papers of Utah Lake that were not published. She was allowed to take pictures of them, and I copied the information down onto an Excel spreadsheet.
This week I made significant progress on several side projects to help my near-peer mentor (Yajie) and the professor I am working with (Dr. Howe). With Yajie, I have been doing trial analyzations of tweets from the National Weather Service to make sure I understand the coding scheme (list of variables and how to categorize them) and am coding the tweets in the same way as her. This will be important so that as a second coder/analyzer I can help prove the reliability of Yajie’s study. This week we clarified some final points and reached consensus on how to classify and analyze the tweets. For Dr. Howe I was able to complete a list of the National Weather Service forecasting areas and the total population served by each. To do this I used the latest census data and a list of counties in each forecasting area and used excel functions to add things together. In the next week or so I will be able to update my map to show these populations.
This week was mostly more hiking to collect samples from the rivers. I also began training in the lab. I'm looking forward to where this project is going. Here's a picture of one of the beaver dams we are studying.
This week we got to take an airboat ride around a brackish wetland associated with the Great Salt Lake. It is of course exciting to feel that one large step closer to starting our experiment now that we have our field sites scouted. However, we also saw countless amazing waterfowl, cranes and herons, we saw muskrats, coyotes, giant carp and amazing signs of insect hatching that had nothing to do with our research, but that still utterly amazed me and captivated my attention. Need I say more to show that it was a great week in terms of research, science and learning, but also just in terms of having life experiences that will stick in my memory for a long long time? It is weeks like this when I am reminded of why I chose this career path. Weeks where we start the week out in the wetlands enjoying the outdoors and the unique experiences that come with having a job like this, and then head back to the lab to run samples through the gas chromatograph for a few hours and I somehow enjoy both of these aspects of this internship so much, remind me why I am here.
All content provided on this iUTAH Team - Undergraduate iFellows weekly recap is unedited, updated by each participant to provide a review of their progress, and is for informational purposes only.