Edward Abbey once said that, “growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” When I left Stanford three weeks ago for the sunny fields of Ashton, Idaho, I was after one thing: to live the life of a “reluctant enthusiast, a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic” (Abbey). After a whirlwind year in school I needed to remove myself from the rush of academia and avoid perceiving growth as a receipt for self-satisfaction. I was after the revival of hedonism; growth for the sake of fun and not a shiny new badge.
My name is Zac Espinosa, and I am a rising junior at Stanford University. I study computer science and hope to pursue a masters in applied physics. This summer I have found a group of individuals whose work and passions are indistinguishable. At the Henry’s Fork Foundation the river is our lab, the outdoors is our home, and protecting all of it is our mission.
With my third week in Ashton coming to a close, I realize more and more how valuable the Henry’s Fork Foundation is to the river, community, and its visitors. I am excited to contribute to their cause and hope to have a lasting impact. Over the past three weeks I have been working on the sondes data automation project (a sonde is simply a measurement device with probes that collect data about the river's condition. Read a technical note).
Last summer the Stanford intern, Justin Appleby, figured out what hardware and software we would need for the job, ordered the required parts, and began putting together much of the final software. Leveraging his work and the help of those in the office, I have made great progress and realize that there is still much to be done in the seven weeks ahead.
The sonde automation project has three major parts:
A single sonde, datalogger, and cell modem are located at each of our twelve data collection sites on the Henry’s Fork. These sondes collect measurements on different parameters in the river such as turbidity, temperature, and conductivity. The CR300 dataloggers store and process this data, and the cell modems send this data through a Verizon phone line to the office. A server in the office cleans and uploads the data to an Amazon S3 database where Henry’s Fork Foundation scientists can then access the data, and our scientific website can pull information to create interactive graphs.
The scientific website is part of an ongoing effort to improve communication with the local and scientific community. The website will be updated in real time with analysis of the water quality and quantity in the Henry’s Fork. I plan to make this website easily accessible, highly educational, and interactive. Over the course of the last three weeks I have created much of the scientific website and begun learning the necessary technology to get the dataloggers and cell modems running. I have certainly had points of frustration, like spending 4 hours failing to link our S3 database to the website and accidently frying a $300 datalogger (I actually only broke the $3 cable). I have learned to become comfortable with R and shinyapps, and gained a better understanding of how large systems communicate with each other; but most importantly I have found fun for the sake of fun.
I have spent time learning new technologies, not for the sake of wearing another shiny badge, but out of downright enjoyment and self-indulgence. The Henry’s Fork Foundation has helped me slow down and take a step back. I have enjoyed the three weeks spent here and look forward to another seven weeks of fun, adventure, and surprise.
Read more at the Out West Student Blog »