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Monday, December 2, 2013

Plymouth Area 1st Science Brew Café Draws Standing Room Only Crowd (Despite Red Sox Playoff Game!) Guest Blog by June Hammond Rowan

October 16th, 2013 by June
Mark Green, Ashley Hyde, and Errin Volitis explain their research at Plymouth's 1st Science Brew Cafe

Plymouth’s first Science Café was held on October 15 at Biederman’s Deli and Pub. Even though the Red Sox were playing an important post-season game, over fifty people, including community members and PSU students, came to learn about science in an informal setting.
The topic on tap for the first Science Brew Café was “Sensing New Hampshire’s Streams and Rivers.” Hydrologist and assistant professor Mark Green gave an overview of a research project using 200 sensors at 100 sites to study water quality and flow. The sensors collect information on conductivity, temperature and stage every 5 to 15 minutes year round creating a large volume of data. Conductivity serves as a measure of water quality and stage relates to the flow and amount of water in the rivers and streams.    Errin Volitis, a research technician working on the project, talked about her work coordinating the installation of the sensors and training volunteers to help with the project. The sensors are hosted by volunteers and organizations around New Hampshire and each has a specific research question which the data from the sensors will help to address. Ashley Hyde, a graduate student in Environmental Science and Policy, explained how the data are also being used by school teachers and students at all levels throughout the state to give them experience in understanding their local environment and data analysis.
Standing Room Only at Science Brew Cafe

Science Cafés take place all over the globe with the goal of bringing science and scientists into a community in a casual setting.  Please see for more information.  New Hampshire recently formed a Science Café Coalition  The State currently has ongoing Cafés in Portsmouth, Nashua, and Lebanon.
The Plymouth Science Brew Café was organized by assistant professor Shannon Rogers and Plymouth State University’s Center for the Environment. Thank you Biederman’s for hosting the event and also to the presenters. Support for this event was also provided by NHEPSCoR and the National Science Foundation.
Additional Science Brew Cafés will be organized in the future. Please contact the Center for the Environment at or for more information.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Developed Landscapes and Water Specific Conductance

Now that we are up and running, we can look across our many sites for relationships between watershed attributes and specific conductance (SC). Here, we have calculated the median SC for ~60 sites in our network during the April 1 to June 30, 2013 period, and relate them to watershed forest cover, developed land, and road density. These results are similar to other studies from the region (Daley et al., 2009, Trowbridge et al., 2010, Kelting et al., 2012) which have shown how roads and parking lots drive water SC. The tightness of this relationship should allow us to predict, at broad scales, the impact of watershed development on water salinization and its consequences.

Thank you to our partners and staff for building such a great data set that is allowing us to understand water quality like this.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Hydrologic Resilience of Temperate Forests

Please see this writeup in our sister blog about my time in Japan:

Comparing such distant landscapes to ours allows for a new perspective on how to best manage our forests and water.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

“Splash into Science” was exactly what students did during their Kids On Campus program in Keene two weeks ago. Steve Hale and I were fortunate enough to facilitate 11 middle school students during the week long session based on the LoVoTECS network data. Students learned how to define a watershed and several ways to assess water quality. Campers battled mosquitoes and lugged sledge hammers, waders, specific conductance meters, PVC housing, rebar and other equipment out to our site on the Ashuelot River to deploy a set of HOBO data loggers. Like the LoVoTECS network, sensors we set to collect temperature, electric conductivity (EC) and water pressure measurements at 3 minute increments. Macroinvertebrates were also collected in buckets and brought back to the classroom for classification. The faces of damselfly larva shocked students at first glance under the dissecting microscopes. The data from macroinvertebrate inventory was combined with the sensor data in order to draw a general conclusion of the Ashuelot’s quality of water. To the students’ surprise, EC levels were hundreds of mircosiemens lower than their predictions. In order to solidify the concept of how humans influence water quality within watersheds, students participated in a water pollution and land cover graphing activity with Skittles as well as Watershed Bingo. My favorite activity of the week was a concept analysis of the term “watershed.” On the first day of camp, prior to any ground-laying conversations, students were asked to draw a watershed. A majority of them drew an image of a shed with some sort of pipe system inside. On the last day of camp, students were asked to draw a watershed again. This time, their drawings included rivers, tributaries, and mountains along the perimeter, farms, factories, roads and bridges. It was clear that all students had a solid understanding of how to define the term. The students showed off their new vocabulary and summarized their findings by creating posters for a poster session for their parents and guardians. It was really neat to see the students articulate what they had learned during the week. We are working on packaging this week-long curriculum so it may be used in future camps or classroom settings.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Elevation and Lotic Electrical Conductance in New Hampshire

It has been a productive couple of days working with middle and high school science teachers. They have been learning about LoVoTECS and thinking about how to incorporate the data into New Hampshire classrooms.

I was inspired by some of the questions being posed by the teachers, so I pulled together a summary of median specific electrical conductance (EC) at a site versus its elevation. The result is interesting, but I am not sure why it exists. Two possibilities that I have been thinking about:

  • Groundwater tends to have a higher EC than precipitation, so maybe our lower elevation sites have more groundwater.
  • More people tend to live at lower elevations than higher, and people bring higher EC with them (general pollution, especially road salt in NH).

Monday, June 24, 2013

LoVoTECS in the news

On May 14th, 2013, all of our LovoTECS hosts were participating in the first of three statewide, "snapshot" sampling events. Candace Dolan, LoVoTECS host from Great Bay Community College and the Hodgson Brook Restoration Project was also collecting samples at her sites but she wasn't alone. She was accompanied by three GBCC students and Alicia de los Reyes, a reporter for The Wire-Portsmouth NH. The WireNH© is a free, weekly community paper. Below is a link to the article which mentions LoVoTECS among other Citizen Science driven programs. It can also be found through the NH EPSCoR facebook page.


NH EPSCoR Facebook

If you're up to something newsworthy or are planning an appearance as a local celebrity, let us know. We're happy to contribute to the article and to help spread the word.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Citizen Science

The citizen science model of collecting data, like we are employing with LoVoTECS, is growing in popularity. A large group with a solid organizational structure, organizers, and motivated partners can gather more information efficiently together than a small group of experts can. More scientists are recognizing this and building novel projects that answer important scientific questions. Here are links to some other examples and stories about citizen science. I hope you enjoy.

A writeup about a Hudson River group here.
A list of large-scale citizen science projects here.
A highly successful bird research group from Cornell here.

I will be speaking at the Japanese Geoscience Union about the LoVoTECS project on May 20th, focusing on the citizen science aspect for building our extensive hydrologic database. The session is on the new era of 'big data' - I hope to share our experiences collecting extensive data with a large group of partners. Stay tuned...

Friday, March 8, 2013

An Amazing Opportunity to Exchange Ideas

Cypress Trees
University of Tokyo Chiba Experimental Forest
Thanks to the Center for the Environment at PSU, I had the opportunity to travel to Tokyo to work with Mark on my thesis in January. Mark is there on a Fulbright Fellowship until July. While I was there, I gave a presentation on the LoVoTECS network. Citizen Science is a new concept of which many of the students and professors were not familiar. They had many questions about how the networked functioned and were "envious" about how much data we are able to collect through our network. So, I wanted to extend my gratitude in participating in such a novel study! Here are just a few of the highlight pictures!
Wonderfully fresh and adventurous Sushi!
Undergrad, Graduate, PhD and Post Doc Students
They were extremely welcoming, gracious and entertaining!


Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Request for Site Photos *All Seasons*

 On a recent and very familiar "no direct route from here to there" drives through New Hampshire, I couldn't help but practically lean my head out of the window to admire the cascading waters along the way. In fact, I pulled over at a few spots to snap these pictures to share. I marveled at ice and snow rimmed streams with water flowing over anchor ice, glorious shades of blue and green, snowcapped river rock and sheer sheets of ice covering entire streams. It made me wonder...what's going on with all of the streams and rivers in the LoVoTECS network across the state? If you are heading out to check on your sensors, grab your camera and capture a few photos and share them with us using the "pics" folder in dropbox.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

An urban stream and stormdrain

The two graphs below display the conductivity and temperature profiles for a few rain events in December. The event that began on 17-December fell as liquid precipitation (rain) the later event of 21-December switched between snow and ice then ended as rain. What's really interesting to see is how quickly the conductivity profile in the stormdrain increased as solids are washed into the drain from the street during a rain event. As more water flows into the stormdrain, the solids that were flushed from the street are diluted and the conductivity decreases. The stream also initially responded with an increase in the conductivity profile but the response time was delayed and not nearly as drastic. Notice the highest value displayed in the top graph is 2000uS/cm and the bottom graph is 12,000uS/cm.
So what does 12,000us/cm mean? For a point of reference, sea water has a specific conductance of ~50,000uS/cm and a sports drink is around 2,500uS/cm, regular tap water is 500-800uS/cm.
Also, notice that the warmer temp of the water in the stormdrain drastically decreases as colder surface water pours in from the street, it then rebounds to above 10°C. Air temperature is not shown on these graphs but the water temperature in the stream is much more stable and is closely tied to daily fluctuation of air temperature.

Urban Stormdrain- The sensors are secured to a concrete block and suspended from coated wire and attached to the drain cover, the entire block is lowered into the storm catchment. Additional water sensors are installed in the stream upstream and downstream of the storm water outflow.

Thursday, January 24, 2013