iUTAH Undergraduate iFellows
Week 6 Recap
June 19-23, 2017
Monday was interesting with some field trips examining the Logan River and current restoration efforts, along with some data quality control exercises. Most of the week was pretty slow since there was no rain and we are still waiting on things to come in the mail. I did however do training to drive USU vehicles and use the P-card, so I was able to go to Home Depot and pick up supplies and put up a second gutter on Pump House 1 and a rain gauge near the Engineering building. We also finally got our second delivery of IDEXX supplies and we found where the tubing for the auto samplers was sent. Briefly, the office looked like it may become a box fort. We organized the IDEXX supplies and used he new tubing to calibrate samplers that have yet to be deployed. Friday evening was spent doing much needed maintenance on the Education collection wells, which involved filling in eroded ground around the wells and replacing a defunct sampler.
This week we went to the Uintah mountains to get headwater measurements for the Weber and Bear River. It was so nice! We measured 10 sites in the Uintahs Tuesday and Wednesday, then headed to Ogden to measure the confluence of the Ogden and Weber Rivers. All in all a very productive and fun week!
This week Andy and I have been doing field work surveying bird populations along the watersheds. We've spent the past week getting up early enough to arrive at the first GAMUT site of each watershed by 6:30, so for the past two days we were surveying the Provo River sites, we had to leave Logan at 4:15 to get there in time.
Also during our field work, we ran into some interesting wildlife, and got some great pictures, too. Not to mention dodging poison ivy and stinging nettle (the latter of which I failed to avoid).
Overall it has been very eventful and exciting. Now I get to spend the weekend putting the data into spreadsheets to be ready for preliminary analysis on Monday.
On Monday we had an iFellow cohort session at Utah State. As part of this cohort we took a field trip and Mark Brunson showed us several places on the Logan River and the challenges the community faces with it. It was nice to get out and see different parts of the river I am helping to model. The river continues to very high due to the spring run off. I took a picture of the river at our first stop from a bridge that guides a path over the river.
The rest of the week I worked on inputting USGS (United States Geological Survey) stream flow gauges into the model. I was able to use latitude and longitude information provided online by USGS to place the gauges accurately in the WEAP model. I was also able to use a topographical map to confirm that the site stations were correct.Because this was an assignment to me by m mentor it took priority this week and as a result it took most of my time. It was a fun experience I have not had before.I am enjoying all the new opportunities and experiences I am being given thanks to iUtah.
I was also able to start to put together a rough draft of my project poster for the upcoming iUtah symposium. It is far from a final project but I have my rough draft done, so that is relieving! I have also gotten more done for the Responsible Conduct for Research course we have been enrolled in. I am finding that course is not only a good ethics reminder but also provides useful ecclesiastical knowledge.
This week I was fortunate enough to spend 3 days in the field. We were able to collect data at 16 new sites in the Weber and Bear River watersheds.
On Tuesday and Wednesday we were able to collect data closer to the headwaters of several tributaries to the Weber and Bear Rivers in the Uinta Mountains.
Thursday we were able to get measurements on the Ogden River below Causey reservoir. We also collected data for both the Ogden and Weber Rivers right above the confluence and an additional measurement after the Ogden had joined the Weber and had mixed.
It was interesting to see the differences in conditions from near head-water locations to close to the terminus of the Weber River. Temperature had almost doubled between these locations and other parameters such as specific conductance had also increased substantially.
I can’t believe it’s already week 6! It started off with the Cohort Session here in Logan, which was fun to go on the field trip around Logan. I finished up my last day of sampling and realized I input my data into a spreadsheet incorrectly, L so the rest of my time was spent fixing that. The next phase of my project will be learning R and coding the data so that we can analyze any trends which we might find. Luckily after spending all the time behind a computer, I was able to spend the weekend backpacking in the mountains.
Its not everyday that you get paid to enjoy the mountain fresh air, and a lake side view. Watch the video as I explain my research project with iUTAH, and why water research is important.
This week I spent a lot of time in Red Butte Garden measuring distance between trees and their trunk diameters to figure out how much competition each individual tree faces. I walked around with a large measuring tape in a 7.0 meter radius from each tree of interest and used the distance of neighboring trees and how thick their trunks were to calculate the competition indices. Every day I went out into the Natural Area of Red Butte I made sure I had someone with me, because I didn’t want to run into any rattlesnakes alone. We actually saw two rattlesnakes slither into the area we were leaving on Tuesday, which made me rethink my decision to wear sandals. I’m finally starting to feel like I have a handle on the project I’m developing, now I just need to start collecting some data!
This week we got to finally start testing our samples for phosphorous. I learned how to make a reagent, how to convert, and how to dilute concentrations. We spent the entire week just running samples to find out what the total amount of phosphorus was in the samples, along with the dissolved reactive phosphorous in the water. At first the numbers came back all negative, which is not correct. So as the week went one we learned how to work the machine better and was able to get the numbers that looked a lot better. We also found at Utah Lake what looks like a bloom, which we took samples from and it was just amazing. We found a type of cyanobacteria in it which produces a toxin and we sent that information to the state. Overall this week has been really productive and I learned a lot about phosphorous testing.
This week was very exciting. We were able to take some Utah Lake samples from Provo Bay that had an active algae bloom. The water was emerald green and as we coasted in on the boat we could see the algae part to the side of the boat. Our samples were brought back to the lab, and looked at by Erin. She called the DWQ and the story made the local newspapers. They sensationalized it of course, but it was satisfying none the less.
Another week gone by. My one big success of the week was that I was able to finish gathering/analyzing all 1135 National Weather Service tweets! It can take a while to finish the code assignments so it really does mean a lot to have finished. I can now move forward with a more formal analysis of the tweets to determine, among other things, the number of tweets in Spanish. To check my reliability, I will also find a second person willing to gather/analyze at least 10 percent of the tweets. This is so that we can be scientifically certain that I didn’t fall asleep and mark a category wrong at any point. I have a lot of work to do from this point forward, but it is exciting to be at a point where I’ll be able to find some results and check by to my original hypothesis.
This week was pretty busy, we focused mainly on continuing sample collection and catching up on filtering samples. We also met as a team to discuss how the project is going and perfect our procedures.
This week I got to go out and get samples for my project. On Wednesday we went to a wastewater plant to get a sample of their effluent, a field irrigated by that effluent for water and plant samples, and a secondary use reservoir to test the sitting water and a canal feeding it. I got on the samples tested that day and read the results Thursday.
Otherwise this week we prepared equipment for collecting rain water and continued maintaining a site where plants are tested on their ability to filter runoff.
This week was full of prep for the impending madness of setting up all 12 mesocosms that should be ready this coming week, and for hopefully taking our first crack at collecting gas samples from them. My favorite project we worked on this week was re-plumbing and troubleshooting the gas chromatograph. We needed to use different detectors to measure levels of CO2 and CH4 gases, as opposed to N2O that we had been measuring before. To do so we had to change the orientation of the column in the machine, change the gases that are fed into it, and test various temperatures for the column and TCD (thermal conductivity detector) as well as for the FID (flame ionization detector). I love the problem-solving part of research, and of the scientific method in general. Thus, even though we are still in limbo to some extent, waiting to do field work, I feel like I learned a lot this week about not just this research, but about what it means to be a researcher as well.
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.