Sunday, May 1, 2016

Values and Vandalism

Vandalism is a problem for all public lands. Experience has shown that it doesn’t matter it if is the most highly managed piece of ground or a beautiful back country byway far from civilization, stupid people are everywhere. For example in 2010 there was a highly publicized act of vandalism at the Red Rock National Conservation Area (NCA). I wrote about this in an article titled Learning the Hard Way (  . Gold Butte is not immune from vandalism either with the most highly publicized incident with the digging up of Art Coleman’s grave in 2014. These two BLM managed areas of public land are at near opposite ends of the management perspective yet they both experience vandalism.

The Red Rock NCA is the most visited BLM managed land in Southern Nevada with visitor counts over 800,000 per year since 2008. The Red Rock NCA is also the most highly managed BLM administered land receiving the most dollar per acre expenditures for protection. Despite all the protections, rangers and money spent on protection, vandalism still occurs in the Red Rock NCA.  Gold Butte sees a small fraction of the visitation that the Red Rock NCA does, as well as a fraction of the spending on this BLM designated Area of Critical Environmental Concern. I speculate that if you could reduce the numbers down to the lowest common denominator, the number of people visiting and the dollars spent per acre in relation to the number of vandalism events, the numbers would be proportional in comparison.

It may seem logical that the more we spend the more we can protect. I don’t disagree that more money for public lands management wouldn’t be beneficial however, the difficulty is in the details of the dollars and how they are spent. Money alone is devoid of moral responsibility. Without a strong sense of moral obligation to our history and a value alignment between the managing agencies and the local communities, any additional money would be apathy at its best. The issue is not the amount of money being thrown at the problem; the issue is the course that public lands management is being directed in overall.   So where does the course correction start?

If we truly want to curb incidents of vandalism towards cultural sites in our public lands then we need to start in our local communities first. If local communities have a strong connection to the land then they will take ownership and responsibility for ensuring its conservation. For instance if local boy scout troops are encouraged to camp and enjoy local public lands, those boys will grow up with fond memories of the area and want to see it well-looked-after. These troops as well as other service oriented organizations could also potentially become a resource for future volunteer based projects in the area. Having our future leaders invested in the multiple use landscape from an early age would be our best safeguard for public lands.

Another way to help promote local involvement is to get more school field trips funded to visit local public lands. The rising generation needs to see and experience the geologic curiosities and cultural sites within their local area. I remember as an elementary student loading up in a big yellow bus and traveling out to Valley of Fire. One of our stops was the petroglyphs at Atlatle Rock. I still remember to this day walking up the long stair case to gaze into the etchings on the bright red sandstone and thinking how cool they were.  I didn’t need to read from a text book why it was important to preserve these ancient drawings because I felt a personal connection with them at a young age surrounded by my peers. We need more young people could connect to public lands on an individual level and learn from seeing and experiencing history, local culture and geology. More could be accomplished with one trip of the importance of protecting cultural sites than ever could in a classroom or by threat of fines.

Getting the local community involved in public lands management really is not an insurmountable barrier to overcome however the task is a shared responsibility. The federal agencies involved that manage these public lands and their policies have to create an environment that encourages and even allows this type of relationship.  This is an area where the federal government is failing horribly and quickening their pace at doing so.

For example as a young scout we use to have many camporees and overnighters in the Virgin Mountain area including White Rock and Whitney Pockets. Less than two decades later after receiving my Eagle Scout and now being involved with scouting we cannot have these same types of activities within the parameters set by the BLM. Another example is when the Virgin Valley Stake wanted to do a youth Pioneer handcart trek where part of the route crossed over the Gold Butte ACEC but couldn’t due failed policy and inadequate bureaucracy which deters instead of encourages local connections to history and public lands. Many of the youth who would have been involved with the trek had pioneer ancestors who did cross this land in a wagon to help settle this land. Another example is when we put on the ST. Thomas celebration to commemorate our local heritage and the Park Service stymied the permit process and blatantly downplayed our community’s connection to ST Thomas. There are many more local examples from just the Southern Nevada region and this is certainly not a regional issue. This is failed federal administration in action.

The trust of the local communities in the federal government’s ability to manage our public lands is eroding at an ever quickening pace. The feds are responding by cutting out the need to call on the communities input on their policies and the sidestepping communities with the implementation of those policies.  It is this ever eroding chasm that will be the downfall of the diversity found within our public lands across the west. The more the feds work to circumvent local communities and culture the harder time they will have at maintaining public lands.

Local land managing agencies need to be more attentive to local community values and align their managing practices to encompass and protect the values that are important to the local communities. It is true that the public lands were created to be enjoyed by all who want to share in their beauty but that does not mean that narrow special interest groups should be given the same credence as those who chose to live, work and play locally and strive be involved in public lands management on a daily basis.

If we want vandalism to stop, if we want the next generations to appreciate the cultures and the relics left behind upon the landscape then it is up to all parties involved to work together to protect all aspects of our public lands. Public lands management is most successful when starting from the local office and reporting progress on up, not top down mandates with one size fits all policy directives from a political appointee burdened with cost of what it takes to get to the top.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Wellspring of History

March 26th 2016 we celebrated the history of Gold Butte focusing on the most notable characters Arthur Coleman and William Garret. We came together to rebury Art after some miscreant disturbed the final resting place of this early prospector. We did our best to right this wrong and reburied Art’s remains, to rest once again alongside his longtime friend William Garret.  

The circumstances that brought us together were appalling at best, but like the resilient pioneers who settled this country, we made the best with what we had, and rose to the occasion. The event will be remembered by all those who rattled down the road to headquarters hoping to partake in the history, available to those willing to seek after it. Our history is infused within the desert hills, just a part of the landscape as the Joshua trees and weathered buttes.

The well of history was brimming in the desert winds, proffering its narrative to those willing to partake. The reward was a refreshing treat whose succulence could never be recreated. One day those who knew of the way it was, will not be here to share it with those of tomorrow. For the wellspring of history, if not recorded, revisited and remembered will one day dry up.  It was in the spirit of remembrance that we gathered and celebrated Art Coleman and Bill Garret.

We first reburied Art and reworked the graves in hopes to protect from future marauding intruders. After the graves of both men were cleaned up we held a simple ceremony to rededicate the final resting place. Duane Magoon presided over the service. Gene Houston gave the opening prayer. Myself, Dustin Nelson, gave the eulogy. Lindsey Dalley dedicated that graves. The closing prayer was given by Shem Teerlink. It was a simple affair but seemed fitting for the good ol’ boys for which we gave tribute.

(Click here to read my eulogy)

After the service we had a pot-luck lunch and gathered to share stories and memories of Art and Bill and of the many who have lived their lives within the backdrop of Gold Butte. For me, eating potato salad while visiting with friends, stirring up stories from the past, in the very place where many of those stories took place, is about as good as it gets.

I spent most of my time visiting with Norm Tom who wore quite a little leather off the tree chasin cows alongside many of the cowboys in Gold Butte. He told me stories of Jimmy Hayworth when he worked for Howard Hughes, of my uncle Moose Whitney when he was out here running with my Grandpa Don Whitney and many other cowboys and city folk who thought they were. Kicking our boots in the dust of Gold Butte and being able to point to the very washes where Norm remembered working cows and making camp is a memory to….well, write about.

One of the highlights of the day was when the Jacobs family arrived bringing with them Art’s original Model A Ford. The story I got was that Art left the car to the Jacobs family in his will and it has remained in the family ever since. James Jacobs, the son of Slat, towed the car out. He said if he had had a little more time he could have got it running and drove it out. Running or not, it was most excellent to see the old car reunited with this rough and rugged country. The Jacobs family use to have the ranch just below the Nay’s at the bottom of the mountain on the Arizona Strip side.

When all was said and done and folks started to pack up and leave, I speculate they left with more than they came.  To the casual passerby, who fails to behold these hills imbued with its historical perspective, the contrast of human and nature can seem a stark contradiction. But for those who understand and appreciate what has transpired within these surroundings, there is an insight which pulls in harmony the contrast of humanity and nature to reveal a more vivid landscape and an accompanying desire to conserve it. It is these community events, where we celebrate our history that ensures our public lands stand resolute.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Art Coleman Eulogy 2016

Today we re-interred the remains of Art Coleman at Gold Butte. If you need a little background on why you can click the following link:

I was asked to give the eulogy today for Art. I had a lot of friends who wanted to be there but could not so I wanted to share the tribute I gave. I will write up and post more pictures on the whole event in the next day or so.

I have been accused of being naturally blabby and a bit irreverent so I guess that is why the lot fell to me for this tribute. It’s a hell of a task to write a eulogy for a feller who died even before my parents were born but it puts into perspective how important written history really is. I love history, I love to hear a good story. I enjoy nothing more than sitting under that shade of the Cotton woods with Marylyn and talking about the early days. I enjoy my memories of taking cows to the auction with grandpa and running into Dennis and Jim and eating lunch at the market grill and auction house hearing about the way it used to be out here running cattle. I have read and talked to everybody I could about the Gold Butte area so I feel like I have a little bit of insight on the Grand ol Men of Gold Butte. I am certainly not an authority nor claim to be but I think they needed somebody with enough hot air and BS to tell a few stories so here it is.
As I have thought it over and tried to gain some insight into who Art Coleman was I came up with this: If you whittle it all down to the essentials you are left with two defining characteristics that I think sum up the long and the short of Gold Butte. The first is the value of a reliable friendship and the second is an appreciation for beautiful country.
The first mention I find of Art in Nevada is in Copper City which is near Gold Butte proper. When Art arrived in Copper City the city was a group of canvas walled tents that, if I have the story right, about 9 out of ten were selling supplies consisting mainly of distilled beverages. Art set up his operation and started dry sluicing a few of the wash bottoms. He had devised a way to reuse the water to be able to run things through and make a go. However I think by the time he got there the only thing left was hard work and a few tailings piles of played out mines…so he moved on. 
Not finding what he had hoped for this prospector continued to ramble on down the trail. From what I can piece together Art took a little hiatus from the prospecting trade in the early 1920’s and went into a little more scandalous dealings running the Moapa Bar during the prohibition days. It might have been the constant menace of being crossways with the law that pushed Art to move on but really I think even more so, it was the call of rugged country, the solitude found in the sage and the prospect of a few good flakes that called Art back to the Gold Butte country.
He setup in Jumbo Basin this time to do a little dry farming and prospecting. I would guess very little farming but possibly other endeavors that included the distilling of agricultural products such as wheat, barley or corn.  The prospecting was good in the washes of this beautiful country and Art was able to find a few good nuggets that he would showcase for the weary western traveler.
It was here where he teamed up with Bill Garret who had setup residence in the abandoned house, a vestige from the boom years of Copper City and Gold Butte Mining District.
Garret was likewise a rambling man but whose background was in cowboying instead of prospecting. Like Art, Garret had been hither and yon but found solace in the hills, valleys and cactus of Gold Butte. Garret worked for George Hartman as a cowboy. There had been a few good wet year and feed was plentiful and the herds grew in proportion. But as we well know drought can set in too and following the late 20’s Hartman was losing to the elements, economy and a changing west. After things dried up with Hartman, Garret got what he could for payment in stock and decided to lay down some roots and setup in Gold Butte making a run at it with what he had…which he did for the next 40 years.
            It has been written and told by all those I have encountered that there was always an available seat for those wanting to reminisce with these ol boys and if the still was running out back a little liquid could help quench the thirst and liven and embellish any story.  It is their hospitality I think that lives on foremost in the stories told of those who knew them.
The boom and the bust has been a part of Nevada story since chapter one. A few good years of rain can mean enough feed to support a growing herd and a cattle ranchers dreams. But a few dry years can pull the rug right out from under the hopes of the same cattleman’s aspirations. Likewise the early whispers of the next mother lode can provoke the wandering dreamer to pack up and head for the next desolate encampment striving to strike it rich where a burgeoning city could grow overnight and playout just a quick. 
            So what was it that pushed these two wandering men to throw in together and settle down in the rough and rugged desert? It certainly wasn’t the dreams of getting rich.  What does it mean when a prospector lays down his pick and shovel and quits searching for the next big lode? I speculate it was the off chance that these two men struck up a friendship that both knew was worth its weight in gold and an appreciation for remote country that offered what no city skyline or society dinner party ever could. If you have watched the early morning sun bath these hills in natures brilliant golden pallet or watched the last color slip away from the cliffs of the Grand wash in the setting sun you need no explanation…and if you haven’t you wouldn’t get it anyways. Art passed away in 1958 at the age of 82 and Bill died in 1961 at 81. 
My parting thought is this, just last weekend dad and I sat at the base of Grand Gulch Canyon where it dumps into Grand Wash. This particular spot offers a unique perspective that provides perception into the grandeur and enormity of this rugged country. From this vantage you are looking across the Grand Wash with Tramp Ridge pointing through to the St Thomas gap covering thousands of acres of brush and cactus. As we sat at the base of the Grand Wash cliffs I asked dad how the hell the early pioneers and prospectors covered such rugged country atop a horse, hell it was beating me up on our four-wheeler with full independent suspension.
It got me thinking about what we miss as the speed of life increases to the point where we can cover in a day in a jeep in this country what would take weeks sitting astride horse. What are we missing because our perspective is at such a faster pace? Are we gaining any more insights on the meaning of life or more wisdom or just covering more territory?  Maybe these ol boys had it figured out. Beautiful country and a good friend to share it with in the end when measured and weighed in the balance adds up to the most.

To the Grand ol Men of Gold Butte I tip my hat….amen

Sunday, January 17, 2016

LakeView Mine Trip

These are a few of the pictures from our LakeView mine trip this last week.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Martian Mesa

I have a fairly lengthy commute to and from work. It was one of the only drawbacks to when I accepted the job. However since I have started that commute I have discovered some most excellent podcasts which now fill every minute of that commute and sometime even more. Most of my stations focus around coding, space, statistics (within the realm of data science), robotics and almost anything science related. With this bit of background my projects list might makes a little more sense.

Mars or Mesa

While cruising into work one morning a TED talk came up on my playlist with a guy named David Lang. David taught himself how to build a robot and start collecting oceanographic data. How he got started out was a lot like how I am trying to get going, he needed to collect data, didn’t have the money to buy the robot or equipment needed to do it, so he built it. He later went on to create openrov where he sells the kits he came up with for super cheap (comparatively). He got talking about collecting data remotely and using robots to do it and it totally inspired me to get back to my robot projects.  That was on the way in to work so I spend a good deal of time pondering what the next step was for my weather station and data collection units and how to make it mobile. Then on the way home I listened to one of my Space focused podcasts. 

With the recent release of the movie the Martian, which I loved, a lot of my space focused stations spent a few episodes discussing Mars exploration. One in particular had a panel of folks who represented specific areas within science who were interested in space exploration. There was a great discussion on whether we should focus on sending astronauts and scientists to Mars or if we should just keep sending robots. There was a geologist who said something a robot would take weeks to analyze, or possibly could never do, he could do if he were physically in the space in a couple minutes. The roboticist of course was like no way, I could get it done and then the astronaut was like hell no send me up and then the guy from NASA who obviously represented the budget was like well this is all going to cost  a lot of money. It was a great discussion and it inspired me to want to get into the space race and robotics. Then these two podcasts came together in my mind and my imagination almost exploded.

After these two came together I instantly wanted to build a robot that could roam around and start collecting data. This thought occurred to me right as I was cruising the North Shore Road coming around Lake Mead and I saw the Mormon Mesa and figured that it would be a perfect testing grounds. The Mesa Rover was born.

As I started to research the Mars rovers and look at pictures they had taken I was impressed with how similar Mars and the Mormon Mesa looked. The boys and I convened a conference in the shed and it was decided to begin work immediately.

So far we have built many protypes but feel like we have found a good design for the tracked robot. We have a pretty good center of gravity so that if it goes back onto the real part of the tracks or above 38 degrees pitch then if you put it in reverse it will go back onto the main part of the tracks.

We have also tested out the battery life and it will go .8 miles in 56 minutes on 8 recharable 1.2 volt 1300 MAH AA batteries. There is still a lot of testing to do with adding on the solar panels and recharging the batteries but it’s good to have a base line to run off of.

We also have the sensor pretty well dialed in that gives pitch, roll and heading. Today we calibrated the sensor to maintain a heading between 264 and 276 degrees which is a nearly easterly direction which is heading for the road that runs by our house. It took us a little bit to find the right course correction algorithm so as to not spend too much time bouncing back and forth between those headings.

Our next step will be to add in the sonar for object \ cliff detection. I will keep update as we make progress on our Mesa Martian Rover.

Hubble Telescope and Gold Butte
The next project has been in the works for a long time but I finally was able to bring it together after listening to one of my python coding podcasts a couple weeks ago.

Ever since I did the fire analysis project in 2014 I have wanted to study the effects of wild fires in the desert. I wanted to better understand how the desert responds after a fire but also possibly identify areas that haven’t yet burned but are most prone to so I could focus research there so if a fire did happen I would have a good base line to run on pre-fire. One of the pieces of analysis I would like to be able to do is to quantify vegetation cover or counts of plants per sq meter in a particular area. To do this I would need to be able to perform somewhat complex remote sensing type analysis. There is software out there that can do such analysis but I don’t have it nor the experience to run it, so I figured writing my own software would be a more attainable approach for me.

While driving into work a couple weeks ago I listened to a podcast called “Talk Python To Me” the host interviewed a scientist who was using part of the Science Kit modules called SKImage. The scientist was using the software to write algorithms to count cells in an image from a microscope but in a high level overview it’s the same concept as I wanted to do with aerial photographs of the desert. After listening to this it sounded like this would be a possibility for me to start work on my image analysis tool.

While researching the skimage module I found an algorithm that a team had written to analyze images from the Hubble Telescope. While looking at the images from the Hubble I thought that they didn’t look too different from a desert landscape found in Gold Butte or Mormon Mesa. I was able to take that program that they wrote and modify it to analyze aerial photographs of our beautiful desert. I am still trying to hammer out the best variables for the formulas but I have a pretty strong start.

So how does this all relate to gold Butte you may be wondering? Well the mesa is not that far from my house so it makes it an easy test ground to run my experiment and it is also adjacent to Gold Butte so once I get the rover running on the Mesa I can then send it out into the wilds of Gold Butte to start collecting data. What kind of data am I going to collect? All kinds of good stuff. Really anything you can think of there are sensors to detect and measure.  I will start with weather data and then add in elevation, slope, available light, wind and all kinds of other factors so I can start building a model to more accurately forecast and predict weather patterns on a microclimate level. I would like one day to be able to integrate the camera as well as an infrared camera to start being able to detect vegetation and write a detection and classification program to start classifying and quantifying vegetation and start building GIS data. I also have ideas for a habitat mapper\monitor\data gathers but I am already getting way ahead of myself.  I also would like to have the bot be able to explore and map abandoned mines. I have directional sensors, sonar, gas detection and other air quality sensors for this project.  In the mean time I am still dreaming things up so I will post my ideas as I make progress.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Lessons Learned and Up Next - DRASTIC

Well I finished up my last weather project. You can see the results here . For that project I created two weather stations and compared the temperature on the Virgin Mountain at 7,100 ft. and in Logandale at my house at 1,400 ft on the same line of latitude. The results of the project were that I found the temperature difference was 24.6 degrees or roughly .004297 per foot of elevation gain. It seems kind of sad to summarize the whole project up in one succinct sentence or really one number. This project was fairly involved and actually took me a couple different tries running up and down the mountain over the course of a month to collect the data. Storms, hardware failure and technical difficulties were plentiful. However there were multiple returns from the project, including tangible data as well as knowledge gained with hardware and software. These were huge wins for me that will benefit future projects by streamline the time it takes to implement those projects. The knowledge I get to carry forward really is the biggest result of this last project.

The knowledge gained from the project was not just that the temperature is 24.6 degrees cooler on the mountain than at my house but in building the systems to collect the data, the software built to analyze the data as well as a better understanding of the weather. I also had hardware outputs from the project that I can use in future projects. The building of the systems was also an endeavor in and of itself. I needed to be able to collect many data points for an extended period of time without the ability to plug it in while also being modular enough that I could pack it up in my backpack and hike it to remote locations and have it withstand the elements. The actual building of the hardware components was not a huge task because I had previous experience with micro-controllers and soldering so I was able to spin those up pretty quick. My weekly allowance for sensors held me back more than anything. The part that took me probably the most to hammer out was the power supply.

There were two parts to this, one: writing code that minimized the amount of power used by the micro-controller and sensors and two: Creating enough power to supply the station with adequate power as well as charge the batteries that would allow the station to run during the night when solar power wasn't available. This wouldn't really be a huge deal except for the size of the panels and for money. As I mentioned earlier I needed the station to be as small as possible so I could pack it in my backpack as well as being inconspicuous so people would leave it alone. I am also funding all this on my own dime so I am going as cheap as possible because it cuts into my soda fund. After much testing I was able to reduce the power consumption considerably and create a power supply unit that was small and reasonably priced for a backyard hacker.

This left me with the last piece which was to weather proof the unit so it could withstand fairly intense weather. This took some effort and testing as well as a few failed attempted deployments on the mountain. However finally I was able to get the two stations to run in parallel long enough to collect data and mark the project a success.

(my bed out in Cedar Basin)

For my next project I will be adding a few new components into the monitoring system but I am also shifting the focus of the data I am going to gather. One of the best parts about getting out and about is seeing wildlife. I love when you’re cruising up the mountain and you jump a few deer up and get to watch them bound up the steep mountain slope. I love when you’re out in the hills and you catch a glimpse of a coyote sleeking across the hills and valleys. I enjoy watching the Jack Rabbit bounce between the cactus and sage or the Gamble Quail scurry across the hill side in the waning afternoon sun. The focus of my next project will be to gather data about wildlife and their habits, potential habitat areas and the interactions between the wildlife in the shared ecosystem.

One of the new pieces of hardware that I ordered last night was a camera that interfaces with the Arduino micro-controller system that I use. I also have a motion detecting sensor so I will wire these two pieces onto the system so I can take a picture when there is movement. I also have built a wind monitor so I can try to better detect if the motion is the bushed blowing in the wind or an actual animal moving within the field of view of the camera.

With these additions to the system I hope to be able to capture some good pictures of different wildlife out in the Gold Butte region. I am essentially building a trail cam but I will also have all my other sensors hooked into the system so I will be able to measure temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed, light, date and time and soil moisture. I hope with all of this data that I can start to get a better understanding of particular animal behaviors and start to find trends and habits.

The animals that I am going to focus on are Gamble Quail, Jack Rabbits, Coyotes, Mule Deer and Mountain Lion. While I am waiting for me new hardware pieces to arrive I have begun the process to define the area where I will set up my monitoring station. I started first by downloading all of the Spring GIS data for the Gold Butte region. I then went to the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) website and downloaded their Mule Deer habitat GIS data. I then overlaid the landform dataset which gives classifications of slope as well as a vegetation dataset. With data I began the process of finding the most suitable areas where wildlife would potentially be found.

After analyzing the data I have identified the area to where I think I will have the best probability to capture data on the animals I outlined previously. After I get all of my hardware assembled and tested I will deploy my new station near Gold Butte headquarters.

There are many different types of analysis that I will be able to perform with the data that I hope to collect. One dataset that I will hope to be able to extrapolate will be species population counts. If I monitor different springs and get good counts of Quail that come and go throughout the morning and evening hours and these counts are roughly the same I will be able to estimate how many birds reside within a given area. I will also have to take into account the terrain and vegetation but I have this data and will be able to create a fairly sophisticated model to estimate this data. If I can get counts of deer and know their normal patters for watering and know their preference for feeding based on available forage I can start to understand where they will most likely to be found and when and under what weather conditions. If I can predict where quail and Jack Rabbits will be then I can start to paint a better picture of where and how many coyotes reside within a certain region. I also hope to be able to capture pictures of a mountain lion out in the Gold Butte region. I have never seen one personally but know people who have and I would like to see if I can get a picture of one and hopefully multiple pictures at different springs so I can start to understand mountain lion habits as well.

This is going to be an ongoing and long term project. Just getting the new hardware pieces integrated into my existing system and tested and weather proofed is going to take some time. My current knowledge and understanding of these animals is quite simple at this time. To help me kind of get a leg up on it all and up to speed I have enlisted the help of a master woodsman and animal tracker, and longtime friend, Kyle Leavitt. He has already donated some time in getting me up to speed on how to track and monitor mountain lions and mule deer. He also has a firm grasp of how to utilize scents to attract these animals and will help me to increase the odds of getting my first data points with my monitoring system. I will post updates as I move along on this project.

This is a time lapse of the Logandale Trailhead with a picture taken every ten minutes between 9 AM - 5PM. The Camera used was an AdaFruit TTL camera that was run from my Arduino which was powered by solar. The video isn't that great but it was a big accomplishment getting the system to run so here it is.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Mountain Comparison Results

This is the second part of a post from earlier. You can read the first post here that explains the experiment in more detail:

I was finally able to have a successful run on our mountain comparison experiment...mostly.

The first run of our experiment was in August 2015. After the second day of the DRASTIC station being deployed on the mountain a pretty good storm rolled in and hammered the mountain. I posted a picture of the radar from the National Weather service on the previous post, it was pretty intense. The road up the mountain got pretty well washed out and my weather proofing on the housing for the station didn't withstand the elements. Water leaked in and fried the SD card and one of the pins on my micro controller. However it was not a total loss because all the sensors were still operational and I still had spare pins on the controller so I was able to do some rewiring on a couple of the sensors and be back up and running.

Once we got the station rebuilt and did some engineering on the housing we ran back up to the mountain to redeploy the station once again. This time I tried to engineer a better water proofing system for the micro-controller housing....a gallon sized zip-lock bag and a lot of tape. On our way to redeploy the station I set up my time lapse system that I built from another micro-controller that emits a infrared pulse that fires the shutter on my Nikon camera. I also included a couple of pictures of some wildlife we saw along the way...not a lot of things scare me but while walking down the trail (7,100 ft elev.) to set up the station a diamondback rattlesnake crossed my made me a little jumpy for the rest of the trip.  If you watch close towards the end of the time lapse part of the video when it is just about dark you can see our lights when we are coming down the mountain for part of the way.

For the most part the experiment was a success because I was able to gather data but I still had a few hiccups along the way. The first major hiccup was that the housing for the outside temperature was blown askew so my temperature readings cannot be trusted during the peak part of the days because the direct sunlight on the sensors gives increased temperature readings. The second hiccup was that halfway through the fourth day we had some pretty gusty winds and it shook my solar panel so hard that one of the wires came loose(nobody says science and engineering is easy especially for a hillbilly building this stuff in his shed in the backyard). However with a few light modifications to the original game plan I was able to still collect and analyse the data and come up with results that I have a high degree of confidence in.

The first modification that I made to the experiment was that I just used the data collected during the night and early morning hours when the sun wasn't shining directly on the station. I had a photoresister, which measures light, on the station so this was an easy modification to make within the analysis program that I wrote to comb through the data. I write all of my analysis programs in Python Scripting language. The second modification I had to make was to only analyse three days worth of data instead of 6. I ran some analysis on the data however and I felt like there was enough consistency in the data to say with high confidence that there was a clear trend in the data.

A quick recap of the experiment: we set up two identical weather stations to gather temperature data on the same line of latitude but at different elevations. One station was up on Virgin Mountain at 7,146 ft and the other was near my house at 1,401 for a difference of  5,745 ft of elevation gain and 21 miles between the two stations by way of the crow.

The finding of our experiment was that the temperature up on the mountain was consistently 24.69 degrees Fahrenheit higher than in Logandale. This difference was consistent between 12:00 AM to 8:59 AM with only a deviation of 3.108 degrees. This is about 0.004297 degrees per foot of elevation gain.

Although there were some hiccups along the way I am still going to chalk this project us as a success. Yes we had to make some modifications along the way, and we had to deploy the stations twice, but the data that we gathered was useful and we were able to pull some correlations out and find some patters in the data that help us to better understand the weather patterns within our area to a greater detail. We also learned a lot about how to better construct our stations so we can build better units for our next experiment.