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: