Out West student blog

Sondes, Servers, and Summits

View of Grand Teton and Cascade Canyon from Table Mountain


By Justin Appleby
B.S. Civil and Environmental Engineering
Environmental Modeling Intern at Henry's Fork Foundation


I've been in Ashton for exactly a month now, meaning I am nearing the halfway point of my summer, next Tuesday.  It's been a wonderful month and I've learned so much about HFF and the area.  I've made leaps and bounds in learning how I am going to complete my project, but most of the technical work still lies in front of me as I look to implement my idea.  Remember from my last blog that I am trying to automate the data transmission from HFF's water quality sensors called sondes, which monitor water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity.  (If you want to learn more about the importance of these sondes, look out for an informational video from Reid, another summer intern, in the coming weeks.)  The sondes will transmit the data over Verizon's cellular network straight to the office, and that data will appear on an interactive website.

As you might guess from that last sentence, this project now has three main components:

  1. The sondes and the data loggers.
    We have 10 sondes set up along the river, and are planning to order devices called data loggers, which can send data remotely.  I researched and chose the best option, based on capability, price, and means of power.  The data loggers, essentially a small box with a circuit board enclosed, will each be plugged into a sonde and housed near the river.  They translate data from our sondes into a cellular signa format l that a computer can easily receive and read, called File Transfer Protocol (FTP).  Unfortunately, delivery will have to take a little longer than we expected, due to unforeseen circumstances on the manufacturer's end.  We are expecting the first logger to arrive in two weeks.
  2. A web server in the office
    While we wait for the loggers, however, there is more to do.  We have ordered a desktop computer, whose sole purpose will be to host the new website.  Once it arrives, we'll be able to set it up to be a LAMP server, powered by the Linux operating system.  When the data loggers arrive, we will plug them into the sondes and configure them to send their data to the IP address of this new computer.  We'll have codes in the statistical programming language ""R"" that will process this data upon its arrival to the computer.  The data will then be ready to be displayed on a website.
  3. The website
    This is the part that is most exciting but also likely to be the most challenging.  I'm hoping to create our own website that can display the data in a variety of formats, including graphs and charts, while also displaying educational information that explains the significance of the data.  I am learning more about  the programming languages I need to accomplish this, HTML, Javascript, CSS, and Angular JS, on my spare time.  The website will probably start out as something simple, displaying the most recent data, and then as I grow more comfortable with the coding, I'll be able to make incremental improvements.  Our end goal is to have a map showing the entire watershed, with buttons to click on at each sonde site, which will then open separate pages to show data at each sonde.  There are many possibilities!

It's exciting to be working on a project that could affect the daily lives of so many fishers in this area.  Access to real-time data as well as archives of past months and years would give anglers an edge in knowing where the best places to go at different times of day, seasons, and years.  

Since working on the project has been in the office most of the time, I have had little field time lately.  Every Wednesday, however, I do go to the Chester Dam fish ladder and clean out the macrophtes, or aquatic plants, that clog up the fishes' pathway up and down the dam.  This Monday, we went to the Parker-Salem boat ramp to pick up copious amounts of litter as well.  Two weeks ago, we helped Harriman State Park put up about 5 miles of cattle fencing, to protect the river from erosion due to approaching cattle.

Ashton is feeling like home, as I am getting into routines like exercising in the backyard, cooking myself big(ish) Sunday breakfasts, enjoying taco (sometimes pizza) Fridays in the office, planning weekend trips, and living off Chinese food leftovers for half the week.  

Outside the office, I have had no shortage of great adventures.  It seems every weekend I litterally reach higher.  In the three weekends since my last blog, I have hiked peaks that reach elevations of 9777', 10300', and 11106'.  In the process, I have visited the famous Wind Cave in the Tetons, Cave Falls in Southwest Yellowstone, and Table Mountain.  Next weekend I am planning to summit the 11938' Buck Mountain!  With five more weekends and a roadtrip back to Stanford to go, there's plenty more adventure in store.  

Thus far, the biggest mistake of my summer was forgetting bug spray on the hike to Cave Falls, and the biggest highlight was eating lunch atop Table Mountain, the Grand Teton staring back at me from less than two and a half miles away. 

Read more at the Out West Student Blog »

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