Friday, September 26, 2014

DRASTIC - Citizen Science

I love the field of science. Since I was little I have loved to take things apart and try and figure out how they worked. I also love being outdoors and marvel at how nature works. In college I took these two interests and studied both the physical sciences along with computer science and technology.  Lately there has been a movement that is being called Citizen Science. More and more people are getting involved in the study of the world around them.  One of the contributing factors in this uptick in citizen science is the access to open-source  hardware and software that allow people to build their own scientific equipment. My boys and I have jumped in headfirst into this movement and have started building our own weather \ sensor station. We call our device DRASTIC, Desert-Robotics-And-Science-Technology-Innovative-Charting.

Our device is built on the Arduino platform and includes a few sensors. The data that we are able to capture include temperature, humidity, light, and soil moisture. I am able to store this information on an SD card that hooks up to our Arduino device.

Today we deployed our device out in the field to gather information. With the impending storm we thought that is was a perfect weekend to start gathering data.  For our first exercise we deployed DRASTIC out on the Mormon Mesa. With the impending storm and rain in the forecast we thought it would be an excellent opportunity to test out DRASTIC. We chose this spot for a few reasons; first it has similar geology, vegetation and soil to many areas out to Gold Butte. Second the Desert Research Institute (DRI) has a weather station in both Mesquite and Overton that provide good base data to compare my results against. The spot we chose is between these two stations so it will give us good control data to compare against.

One of the experiments that I hope to carry out is to compare the soil temperature and soil moisture of an area that has been burned against an area that has all the native vegetation. The picture below shows an area that I may carry one of my experiments out on in the Gold Butte region:

I will post the results of our first run and report back on our data collection efforts. We were racing to beat the storm so we could gather some data before it started raining:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Logandale Trails - Public Lands Day

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Logandale Trails, Main Trailhead
8:00 am — 1:00 pm

Please car pool if possible & arrive about 7:45
At 8 am we’ll have a quick safety meeting then go do good things!

Pick out a chore you’d like to do.
Paint, clean up campsites, pick up trash,
plant shrubs; there’s enough work for
everyone, so invite family & friends!

Around noon, we’ll serve lunch, have a
scavenger hunt for the kids,
and thank you profusely for
volunteering at Logandale Trails for
National Public Lands Day!

For the best (and safest) experience, please wear work clothes and closed shoes (no sandals or flip-flops).

Check the weather and dress accordingly.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Slipshod and Irrational:Federal Basecamp

At least once a the the Clark County captures aerial imagery that it uses for Assessment purposes and other mapping related functions. One of its primary uses is in a mapping application called OpenWeb where you can view the assessor records and other GIS data along with all the aerial imagery that the county has collected. This normally occurs every spring.

This year it just so happens that the aerial acquisition occurred during the build up for the BLM's Bundy Flop.

It beautifully captures the exaggerated, hysterical and theatrical show of force parade for the Federal Cattle Arrest.

You can zoom around and see the base camp and surrounding area on April 7th 2014

To view the imagery you can click the following links:

PC version:

Mobile capable version: search by parcel number 00229000002

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Out and About

See if you can spot the deer in this picture. At the bottom of the post I have the same picture with the deer pointed out:

The boys and I loaded up this weekend for one last big ride before school got started and did we ever have a great trip. 

Be careful as you head out as the recent rains has torn the roads up to as about as bad as I have ever seen them. The road from Riverside Bridge to Whitney Pockets has been inundated with sand a gravel being carried down from the Virgin Mountains and all the washes along the road between Whitney Pockets  and Devils Throat are eroded some kind of fierce. None the less we are thankful for the rain. There is even a second wave of wildflowers coming up and the cheatgrass is coming on strong again.  

We unloaded a Whitney Pockets and headed for Horse Springs. Along the way we found a desert tortoise who seemed to be enjoying the green grass that is sprouting up after the recent rains.

After catching poly-wogs at Horse Springs  we headed for the graves at Gold Butte Headquarters. After saying hello to Mr Coleman and Garrett we headed on over to Cedar Basin.

I always enjoy the beautiful country and cedar trees in and around Cedar Basin. The recent rains hit the Virgin Mountain area pretty hard by by the time you got to Gold Butte Headquarters and Cedar Basin it was obvious the rains didn't drop quite as much there.

At Cedar Basin we found and old box spring and drug it under a cedar tree for a beautiful picnic spot. It was a lovely 82 degrees with a light breeze and it couldn't have been more beautiful.

After leaving Cedar Basin we headed for Azure Ridge and the windmill through Pierson's Gap back behind Mica Peak. While traveling down this canyon we kicked up four Mule Deer bucks that were bedded down under a Cedar tree. 

I love the Gold Butte country. There is such variety in both scenery and wildlife. You can about see it all in Gold Butte.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Comparing Elevation and Temperature - Virgin Mountain Trip

This graph charts the percent change in temperature in relation to elevation as my boys and I headed for our picnic spot on the Virgin Mountain. The data collection process is explained below...

The boys and I had a great trip up the Virgin Mountain last week as we searched for cooler temperatures. As we went up the mountain we logged the elevation, temperature and location.  My Arduino sensors haven’t come yet which will help me with capturing and logging data so for now they boys help me with the process. They are the best data loggers a dad could as for.

The raw data is interesting because it shows the change in temperature as you climb in elevation. One little side note to explain part of the data is the dramatic drop in the temperature after we initially peak in elevation, and then drop back down. This is because we dropped down the back side of the mountain in the shade of the sun.

Here I just overlaid the two graphs to show the comparison

I also wanted to normalize the data a little bit so it would make the comparisons and analysis a little bit easier. To do this I calculated the percent in change of both the elevation and temperature. 

We also tested the temperature of the water coming out of the spring.

Out data collection rig

Sure had a great trip with my boys up on the mountain.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Fire Risk Map

This is Part IV in a series of articles on Wildfires in the desert region of Gold Butte in North Eastern Clark County, NV. 

To read Part I click the following link: Defining the Study Area:
To read Part II click the following link: Defining the Study Area:
To read Part III click the following link: Defining the Study Area:
To read Part IV click the following link: Defining the Study Area:

Fire Risk Indicator
The goal of this research was to assess the Gold Butte region for risk of fire. To create this model, I used geospatial data available on the internet from various government agencies, to create a model to calculate risk. I used the fire perimeter data available from the BLM’s website to create my sample area. I used Soil, Geology, Landform, and two different vegetation datasets to analyze the area within Gold Butte that has already experienced a wild fire event to look for clues as to why the fire burned where it did.  

After analyzing the data, I found there were strong colorations between the data and sample area that helped determine why did the fire burn where it did. After these indicators had been determined I developed model to classify the entire study area (Gold Butte region). The results of this model are as follows:
I created a ranking hierarchy that ranged from 1 to 15 with 1 being the lowest risk and 15 being the highest risk of fire.

Classification by Acreage:
1: 73,997.69
2: 48,133.22
3: 28,132.37
4: 31,386.28
5: 13,055.05
6: 16,103.41
7: 12,518.14
8: 38,121.84
9: 24,185.72
10: 14,517.97
11: 18,885.54
12: 37,333.26
13: 16,801.13
14: 36,380.47
15: 24,161.95

Acreage Statistics:
Count:  15
Minimum:           12518.147206
Maximum:          73997.693831
Sum:      433714.117105
Mean:   28914.274474
Standard Deviation:        15924.771133

With this information a person could then more easily determine which area were most at risk for a fire event and determine how to mitigate or better manage those risks. I plan to document the areas that are at most risk which haven’t burned yet so in case of a fire event the pre-fire landscape will be adequately documented.

This is not the end of this project but just another stepping stone to more research and better understanding of wild fires in a desert ecosystem. One interesting byproduct of this study has been to look more closely at the areas that are marked high risk and within close proximity to the fire boundary but yet didn’t burn. In many instances it is plainly clear the role that roads play as natural fire breaks to prevent the fire from spreading even farther within the desert ecosystem. I will continue to post data and information about my findings in researching the Gold Butte region…

Monday, July 14, 2014

Details Depicted - Doing the Analysis

This is Part IV in a series of articles on Wildfires in the desert region of Gold Butte in North Eastern Clark County, NV. 

To read Part II click the following link: Defining the Study Area:

To read Part II click the following link: Defining the Study Area:

To read Part III click the following link: Defining the Study Area:

In this step of the research, I am delving into the details. With the following graphics I try to depict how I performed the analysis to create the risk index. In the previous step (Step III) I calculated the specific value for each type we are researching. In this step I am applying those values to a grid that I created within the area of interest. The following is how I apply those values:

The next step is to create the map that depicts all these values which represent the potential risk an area has to fire.