Out West student blog

Wait, Was I Supposed to Be Doing Work This Summer?

A hard day at the office? But don’t worry, Mom and Dad — I’ve been working hard off the mountain too!

By Zach Clayton
Environmental Systems Engineering, 2020
Software and Web Development Intern, Henry's Fork Foundation

 

 

No offense to previous years, but I believe this summer has been one of the best so far. I first figured this out at 3:30 am on a July Saturday morning. An early start to the day is necessary if you’re Ben Franklin, or if you’re summiting Mt. Borah — Idaho’s tallest peak at 12,667 feet. On our way to the top, we ascended over 5,000 feet in elevation, and conquered Chicken-Out Ridge’s huge drops. At first, the exposure was a bit intimidating, but as you can see, I soon was feeling pretty relaxed. But don’t worry, Mom and Dad — I’ve been working hard off the mountain too!

In my last blog post, I was in the midst of a physical and mental maelstrom. Electrical wires of every color looping over lab benches. Uncooperative program software simply being annoying. Sawdust strewn all around the workshop. My work area could probably rival a mad scientist’s lair. Thankfully, those dark days have passed. First, I installed a new water quality sensor, called a sonde, in Harriman Ranch State Park. Known as the Ranch, this location is extremely popular with anglers; people travel from around the US and even the world to test their skills. With this expansion of the Henry's Fork Foundation’s sonde network, we will be able to observe a key stretch of the watershed.

I installed a new water quality sensor, called a sonde, in Harriman Ranch State Park. Known as the Ranch, this location is extremely popular with anglers; people travel from around the US and even the world to test their skills.

More significantly, I have successfully automated two existing sonde locations to wirelessly transmit data in real-time to the office. After several weeks of initializing, wiring, and programming equipment, I can now check the conductivity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and other parameters at Pinehaven and St. Anthony without needing to step outside the building. Since we’ve integrated these sites into the website Melissa has developed, anglers and fishing guides can access current data to determine optimal trip locations, and we at HFF can better monitor water quality over the entire watershed. Coupled with my weekly samples on nutrient and sediment loads, HFF is building a robust data set to analyze patterns and predict future trends.

One of my final projects is installing a full meteorological station on the HFF building roof. I’ve already started testing the sensors in the lab, and with this additional component, HFF can better advise dam operators and agricultural irrigators on water quantity and management.

Unfortunately, my fellow HFF interns will be heading back to their respective universities in the next week. We’ve had a lot of fun together, and we still have big plans: skiing and sandboarding down sand dunes, as a hint. So what am I going to do when everyone leaves? One of my final projects is installing a full meteorological station on the HFF building roof. I’ve already started testing the sensors in the lab, and with this additional component, HFF can better advise dam operators and agricultural irrigators on water quantity and management. I’m definitely going to go to another rodeo, further cementing my lifelong desire to ride a rodeo bull. Sadly, it’s hard to find an opportunity for this dream…but my health and my parents are probably grateful for that. I can guarantee you, if the past month has been any indication, my last few weeks certainly won’t be dull!

Read more at the Out West Student Blog »

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