News and Highlights
October 11, 2017
Utah State University recently announced that David Tarboton would lead a $4 million National Science Foundation-funded collaborative effort aimed at improving HydroShare – an online database system that simplifies the storage and sharing of hydrological data and models.
An excerpt from a USU press release said “'Hydroshare is an online system for the scientific community that allows us to easily and freely share products from our research,’ said Tarboton, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and a leading hydrology expert who helped create HydroShare. ‘We’re interested in sharing not just the scientific publication summarizing a study, but also the data and models used to create that study.’
Tarboton says sharing scientific data helps researchers collaborate and improves the quality of data and scientific knowledge. Enhancing HydroShare’s capabilities, he added, will help hydrologists and a broad community of earth-science researchers transform data sharing techniques and accelerate the pace of discovery. Improvements to HydroShare include enhancements to data sharing tools, and new features that enable its 1,000-plus users to develop their own unique apps to access HydroShare resources.
‘HydroShare represents the latest thinking in collaborative hydrology research,’ said Tarboton. ‘This program and its improved capabilities will serve a diverse community of researchers ranging from hydrologists and environmental engineers to aquatic ecologists.’”
iUTAH is using the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI) HydroShare system as a data repository. Its development included input and leadership from USU researchers Jeff Horsburgh and Amber Jones and other iUTAH participants and partners. Since iUTAH contributed a significant number of datasets to HydroShare, the needs of participants have helped motivate development of features and functionality that will continue to address long-term needs after the iUTAH project ends.
October 11, 2017
Ka-Voka Jackson, a former iUTAH undergraduate student, has been in the news recently for her research on invasive grass in Glen Canyon. Jackson is leading a team of researchers in a project to learn how best to eradicate invasive ravenna grass from Lake Powell's side canyons and replant with native species. She is a University of Nevada, Las Vegas graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology, and member of the Hualapai tribe. Here is what reporter Paige Blankenbuehler had to say about Jackson in an a High Country News article dated Sept. 6, 2017:
“With the Southwest’s climate on a trajectory for prolonged drought and weather extremes, Jackson navigates the deep backcountry near Glen Canyon, around the Arizona-Utah border. Here, back home, she is working to eradicate prolific and climate-change-resistant invasives and restore native vegetation….
As part of her graduate research, in collaboration with the National Park Service and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Jackson is now assessing dozens of plots, 100 square meters each, in five different canyons. …In April, she took a team of technicians into the canyons to kill or pull up ravennagrass and replant native plants. Jackson is also investigating whether passive re-vegetation — allowing the native plants to come back on their own — can work. Over the course of her program, she will return to monitor her plots, recording details from each to give land managers insight into which methods could work best for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.”
Jackson is a graduate of the University of Utah, and has a Bachelor of Science in biology with an organismal and environmental emphasis. During her time with iUTAH, she was in the iUTAH Traineeship program and worked directly with the Red Butte Creek GAMUT technicians on their research, as well as other research scientists and graduate students.
October 9, 2017
Utah Water Watch (UWW) is citizen science program that monitors water quality at 250 sites across the state. As part of a local effort, their help was essential in discovering a recent algal bloom in Mantua Reservoir, located in Box Elder County. During routine monitoring on Aug. 16, they found indicators of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, creating conditions that could lead to harmful algal blooms at the site.
Additional tests by UWW on Sept. 8 and 11 indicated increased toxin levels leading the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Water Division (DEQ) to issue a recreational advisory for Mantua Reservoir in Box Elder County on Sept. 11 advising people to stay out of the water. An article by the Herald Journal reported, “Utah DEQ Communications Director Donna Kemp Spangler said the department works with a lot of different groups to monitor the state’s waters.”
“Our federal, state and local water quality agencies work hard to protect our water, but they have limited resources,” said Nancy Mesner, professor in the Department of Watershed Sciences and an Extension Specialist in Water Quality Extension at Utah State University. Citizen science programs such as Utah Water Watch, a Water Quality Extension program supported by iUTAH, are a popular and effective way of getting people involved in science at a local level.
UWW is especially good at involving local people in water stewardship in their communities. This is especially true with water quality education and monitoring for toxins such as the one discovered in Mantua Reservoir since algal blooms often start with little warning, making early detection difficult. UWW has conducted over 103 training events and trained over 1,025 volunteers since it started in 2012.
“The hundreds of UWW volunteers who monitor local water bodies that they know and love serve as an early warning system,” said Mesner. “They are able to catch cyanobacteria blooms as they first develop, E coli ‘hot spots,’ and other potential water quality problems.”
October 5, 2017
Former iUTAH postdoctoral researcher Erik Oerter has collaborated with Molly Malone, Louisa Stark, and Gabriel Bowen, and others to publish the paper “Every apple has a voice” in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, a peer-reviewed open access journal.
In the summer of 2016, Oerter served as a mentor in the Summer Research Institute (SRI), a program supported by iUTAH from 2013 – 2016. The program offered students and teachers the chance to become scientists for one week each summer. He designed a one-day water science activity for the program, including lecture, a hands-on lesson about isotopes, food sourcing, and the water cycle, and a computer lab exercise. Participants, which included high school students, undergraduate students, and high school science teachers, then turned what they learned into a poster presenting their research results.
The effectiveness of the activity was assessed through pre- and post-lesson tests, as well as participant surveys. While the lesson was effective at teaching the basics of stable isotope hydrology and the water cycle, the computer lab needed to be more specifically tailored to each participant’s abilities. Oerter felt that he learned much from the teachers while discussing his lesson. A highlight of the week was “seeing the light bulb go on” in the students as they understand complex concepts while creating their posters.
Oerter is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, CA. His research focuses on the intersection of hydrology and geochemistry, applying the isotope hydrology expertise gained through iUTAH to a broader set of national issues.
Originally, SRI was designed as part of CI-Water, a prior NSF EPSCoR-funded project that brought collaborating institutions in Utah and Wyoming together to address water issues in the West. Through the guidance of Director Louisa Stark and Senior Education Specialist Molly Malone from the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah, the program engaged 96 high school students and teachers, and undergraduates in 13 diverse research projects reflecting iUTAH's cross-disciplinary approach over four years.
Full study of the article is available below:
“Every apple has a voice: using stable isotopes to teach about food sourcing and the water cycle.”
Authors: Erik Oerter, Molly Malone, Annie Putman, Dina Drits-Esser, Louisa Stark, and Gabriel Bowen.
October 5, 2017
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has moved into their new headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. With the move comes a new address, 2415 Eisenhower Ave, Alexandria, VA 22314, which is just a few steps away from the Eisenhower Avenue metro stop and only a few stops down from Washington National Airport (DCA).
While the physical location has changed, there will be no changes to email addresses and phone numbers for NSF employees and NSF offices. It is recommended that all future NSF visitors and on-site panelists carefully read any instructions and documents sent out prior to visits. And, as always, be sure to have a valid ID that is compliant with the REAL ID Act. If this is not available to you, bring a passport for all future visits to the new building.
September 15, 2017
As the iUTAH project comes to a close, researchers are summarizing methodology and findings as it applies to other water-related research. The September issue of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) features two in-depth reviews of the mountain urban water system in Utah, specifically, iUTAH design, implementation, and maintenance of sensor equipment, data and metadata produced by the water science project.
The first paper, “Designing and Implementing a Network for Sensing Water Quality and Hydrology across Mountain to Urban Transitions” discusses the logistics of developing and maintaining the Gradients Along Mountain to Urban Transitions (GAMUT) network. The article described the practices followed, as well as insights and findings during the installation and operation of GAMUT. Early on, the research team focused on openly publishing data to drive further science. The research teams “worked to balance scientific needs with physical site limitations, communication constraints, public engagement goals, site security, and partnership potential.” Once the groundwork was laid for the project, additional enhancements focused on quality assurance and system controls to manage and communicate the numerous large datasets produced. The paper finds that GAMUT the "is underlying infrastructure that serves as a vehicle for other research endeavors, ” and instills confidence in consistent long-term data output which secondary users might find helpful after applying their own assessments.
The second paper, “Data Management Dimensions of Social Water Science: The iUTAH Experience” focuses more specifically on integrating a social science framework into the project. It reinforces the first article’s discussion of planning and policy needs, as it explores the open science, data sharing, and the human aspect of Utah’s water system. The study recommends classifying social water science data according to the dimensions of human subject data, primary vs. secondary data, and data restrictions to reveal opportunities and reduce barriers for data sharing. Furthermore, the article concludes by saying that “by facilitating innovative approaches to managing a diverse portfolio of data, the iUTAH program has furthered understanding of a mountain urban water system and provided opportunities for data integration across water sciences and between science and society.”
Full study of each article available below:
Designing and Implementing a Network for Sensing Water Quality and Hydrology across Mountain to Urban Transitions
Authors: Amber Spackman Jones, Zachary T. Aanderud, Jeffery S. Horsburgh, David P. Eiriksson, Dylan Dastrup, Christopher Cox, Scott B. Jones, David R. Bowling, Jonathan Carlisle, Gregory T. Carling, and Michelle A. Baker