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June 28, 2018

Going with the Flow: iUTAH GAMUT Transitions


The Utah Center for Water Resources Research (UCWRR) at Utah State University recently featured a story on what is happening to the GAMUT (Gradients Along Mountain to Urban Transitions) network in the Logan River. Water bLog, a semi-annual newsletter produced by UCWRR, is part of the Utah Water Research Laboratory at USU. In his introduction, Director Mac McKee says that GAMUT, now the Logan River Observatory, is “a valuable resource that is supporting local policy and water management decisions that address local water related challenges.”


Writer Carri Richards goes on to characterize the transition this way, “Now as the iUTAH project comes to a close, the Logan GAMUT network is transitioning to become the Logan River Observatory due to continued support from the USU Office of Research and Graduate Studies, the College of Engineering, the College of Natural Resources, the Ecology Center, and the Utah Water Research Laboratory. Drs. Bethany Neilson, Jeffery Horsburgh, and Michelle Baker are working to maintain and expand the partnerships forged over the past five years to ensure that the wealth of data continues to benefit the stakeholders who rely on it.”


“Thanks to iUTAH, the GAMUT infrastructure is already in place and we have some key baseline data,” says Neilson. “Now with the Logan River Observatory, we will be able to continue long-term data collection throughout the Logan River basin and expand the infrastructure in Cache Valley to address local water management questions. The Observatory will provide a foundation to develop new partnerships with various stakeholders and an opportunity to engage with the community to protect this valuable local resource.”


So, what’s next for GAMUT? “The Logan River Observatory team will work with various stakeholders, including Cache Water District, Logan City, the Nature Conservancy, the Utah Division of Water Quality, and the Logan River Task Force, to build and support existing infrastructure. For example:


  • An upcoming project is the monitoring network to include stormwater monitoring in local canals.
  • The team will further encourage the use of these data sets in K-12 and community education via educational outreach activities.
  • They will work to establish the Observatory as a teaching watershed to train university students in water-related fields

After the iUTAH project ends this summer, the Logan River Observatory will continue to provide data to inform local policy and water management decisions to address water related problems (stormwater, Total Maximum Daily Load studies, etc.). Over the coming years, the Logan River Observatory team will continue to develop partnerships with individuals and groups, both in the valley and across the state, who are interested in monitoring, understanding, and managing local water systems.”


Read the complete June 2018 issue of The Water bLog Newsletter.


The Logan GAMUT Network is transitioning to become the Logan River Observatory



June 26, 2018

iUTAH Researchers Use GAMUT Data to Improve QC

A new study focused on Quality Control (QC) methodology in the iUTAH project using GAMUT data. Researchers Amber Jones, Jeff Horsburgh, and Dave Eiriksson published an article titled “Assessing subjectivity in environmental sensor data post processing via a controlled experiment” in the July 2018 edition of Ecological Informatics. The article used high frequency environmental data collected by sensors in GAMUT or 'Gradients Along Mountain to Urban Transitions,’ iUTAH’s ecohydrologic observatory, to examine QC procedures to observe and review post-processing results.

In this paper, researchers were able to compare QC post processing of sensor data by multiple participants, including whether experienced participants' results were more variable than novices. They then looked at participants' data shifts at calibration events that caused the greatest discrepancies. Finally, the paper made recommendations include prescriptive procedures and collaborative quality control.


Results suggest that to “improve consistency, clarifying QC guidelines and protocols and thoroughly training technicians is recommended. Implementing a collaborative QC process is also suggested wherein the changes introduced by QC for sensitive periods are reviewed for cases where highly accurate data are required. Because of the resources demanded by review and collaboration, in determining QC workflows, scientists should look to balance the level of review with the potential improvements in processed data quality and precision.”


The article can be viewed under the title “Assessing subjectivity in environmental sensor data post processing via a controlled experiment.


Jones, A.S., J.S. Horsburgh, and D. Eiriksson. 2018. Assessing subjectivity in environmental sensor data post processing via a controlled experiment. Ecological Informatics, 36: 86-86. 10.1016/j.ecoinf.2018.05.001.



Figure shows results for water temperature for novice participants (a-c) and experienced participants (d-f). Credit: Amber Jones, et al.




April 16, 2018

Bean Museum Involves Visitors in Local Watershed

The Bean Life Sciences Museum, located on the Brigham Young University campus, has partnered with iUTAH and the Natural History Museum of Utah to place an interactive display in the museum to help visitors learn about their local watershed. Based on a display developed by NHMU in 2015, the Bean Museum’s version allows visitors to see and interact with live data collected from the Provo River watershed.


The exhibit uses the iUTAH network of aquatic and climate sensor stations from GAMUT, which stands for “Gradients Along Mountain to Urban Transitions.” GAMUT sensor stations, located in three of Utah’s most populated watersheds: Red Butte Creek, Logan River, and Provo River, traverse the landscape from mountain to urban settings. Data from these stations are monitored and used for solving a wide range of water-related problems. From diagnostics and restoration of impaired urban rivers to modeling future water availability, the data help identify irregularities in Utah’s waterways.


Installed in February 2018, the display has been well received offering visitors the opportunity to explore the Provo River without leaving the comforts of a warm museum building. Visitors can become researchers, seeing and comparing changes in water levels and temperatures in real-time. They also learn to be water-wise citizens as they gain a better understanding of the impacts of pollution and population on their watershed.


“The Provo Watershed exhibit has been a great resource to teach kids about how different properties of water affect the wildlife,” said Meagan Grasley, an educator at the Bean Museum. “Children have loved looking at the different wildlife that live at each part of the watershed. Overall, it has brought more awareness to the patrons of their local ecosystem.”


This interactive display at the Bean Museum is just one of the many examples of legacy products that will be available for research and education long after the iUTAH project ends in July 2018.


Visitors at the Bean Museum can now connect with their local watershed through an interactive display showing iUTAH’s GAMUT data in real-time Credit: Bean Life Sciences Museum



February 14, 2018

Traineeship Students Gain Real Skills

There are many internship opportunities for students at all levels found throughout the Utah educational system. iUTAH traineeships offered between 2013 and the present provided something different. “We knew we had students on the research-oriented campuses in the state that could benefit from gaining skills that were transferrable outside of academia,” said Ellen Eiriksson, iUTAH’s education, outreach, and diversity coordinator. The Traineeship Program is a workforce development initiative developed to provide students with skills that transfer beyond the academic realm, and that contribute to a strong Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) trained workforce in Utah.


“Not all undergrads go on to higher degrees or careers in academia,” said Eiriksson. “Traineeships are meant to give students skills that they can take directly to the workforce with them.” Trainees were paired with faculty and other mentors on campuses to gain experience in their laboratories or other work settings. As undergraduates, trainees served as integral members of research teams, learning new skills, and even serving as near-peer mentors, passing those skills onto incoming trainees.


The average student was engaged with the program for one year, although this amount of time varied depending on research needs. Students benefited from a team environment, training alongside graduate students and other near-peer mentors. Below are some examples of the many interesting projects that they were involved in:

  • Linking sensor networks to science through ecoinformatics
  • Integrating data and models for hydrologic applications
  • Exploring green roof food production and green infrastructure water use strategy
  • Social science data management
  • Quantifying precipitation effects from the Great Salt Lake


One former trainee, Phil Suiter, currently works as a civil engineer for Ogden City. He said that he “enjoyed working in the iUTAH trainee program because it opened my eyes to all the variety of work performed for research studies,” adding that the program “helped me learn the importance of the planning and preparation needed prior to field work which has helped me be more effective as I visit my infrastructure improvement sites.”


Another trainee, Natasha Griffin, worked on the GAMUT project in the Provo River, which she says "helped me to gain experience in doing fieldwork and collaborating with other researchers, which made me more confident about pursuing my own projects. I'm now working on two publications of my own as I finish my senior year, after which I'll head to graduate school in aquatic microbial ecology."


From a faculty perspective, mentors appreciated that the program was not limited to a summer session, so students were available for as long as they were needed. One mentor said “we enjoyed the consistency and enthusiasm that traineeships brought to the lab. The trainees always wanted to learn new skills and were always eager to help in the field and lab."


“As an iUTAH trainee I was responsible for installing, maintaining, calibrating and troubleshooting a wide variety of environmental sensors and equipment,” said Brett Boyer, trainee from 2015 – 2017. “I grew confident that with time and effort I could become an expert on a given piece of equipment and use my knowledge to solve any issues that might come up. I also worked on a challenging project developing a self-contained sensing and datalogging system that greatly increased my programming and troubleshooting experience.” These skills helped Boyer secure a position as a control systems engineer, working with heavy electrical equipment and programming controllers for a gold mining project in Mexico.


The iUTAH traineeship has involved 31 students to-date, many of whom are now employed in water-related technical fields, or continued their educations in graduate school both in Utah and neighboring states. These students benefited from access to iUTAH's diverse range of research and cross-institutional collaboration.


Ka-Voka Jackson served as a trainee working with technicians and researchers at the Red Butte Creek GAMUT stations



November 20, 2017

Software Helps Scientists See How Nature is Connected

Caleb Buahin, a postdoctoral researcher with the iUTAH project at Utah State University, has developed a flexible software framework called HydroCouple that allows scientists to bring together models from different domains and scientific disciplines. This approach, called component-based modeling, allows for the communication and exchange of information during calculations. It allows scientists to test and refine hypotheses about how water systems behave by experimenting with different models using the same framework.


Caleb’s current work involves coupling together models that simulate the natural and built portions of urban water systems. By working with the City of Logan and using aquatic and climate data from iUTAH’s Gradients Along Mountain to Urban Transitions (GAMUT) network, he is able to examine present and future water capacity related to the cities’ stormwater system. An example output from his work shows the interactions between the canal system and the engineered stormwater infrastructure.


By demonstrating how this framework can be useful for bringing together models and data for different aspects of Utah’s water system, Caleb is creating software tools and guidance that can help other researchers evaluate not just water systems but other natural resource systems. In so doing, scientists will be able to avoid the pitfalls of studying parts of a problem independently, without considering the important ways that different resources affect each other and our future.


HydroCouple allows scientists to bring together models from different domains and scientific disciplines


iUTAH postdoctoral researcher Caleb Buahin presenting HydroCouple software at the NSF EPSCoR Conference in Missoula MT