Thursday, December 22, 2016

Let it Snow!

The semester is over, grades submitted, conferences attended and talks given. WyCEHG students are scattered across the globe, yet data must be collected. My role on the project relates to communicating the science, organizing and delivering outreach, rarely does it include adventures in the snow. Today, however, was a day to play.

Programs at the No Name site needed to be updated, one instrument was not communicating data to another, and it was snowing. The snow was encouragement enough for me that when the invite came to participate, I eagerly accepted my job – umbrella holder.  Up the trail I tromped behind my colleague ET, golf umbrella in hand and a pair of snowshoes on my feet. Wind-swirled flakes cut across our path as we ascended from the Green Rock parking lot.

Upon arrival at the station, we quickly stomped down the snow surrounding a near-by fallen tree to set up the computer and various additional pieces of equipment. It was a bit like I imagine the Hubble engineers to have done on their missions to fix their scope – heading off to territories unknown to fix instruments and allow a better eye on places unseen. My job was to quickly gather snow-depth from specific points around the station, all of which showed 70-80 cm of coverage and then protect the computer from precipitation.

ET opened the laptop and connected it to the station. The screen displayed a circling blue ball and read “Performing Updates, Do Not Turn Off.”  We looked at one another and considered our options, restart and revert, go snowshoe around a bit, shout, or wait. We chose to wait. Unfortunately technology was more patient than we were, and never did finish updating.

One of the takeaways from my day, aside from snow angles and trekking around a beautiful place with a wonderful individual is that, this is the nature of science and technology. Sometimes experimentation and data collection works in our favor. But other times it challenges us to go play and come back another day. We will return, computer updated and umbrella at the ready. Until then, let it snow… let it snow… let it snow!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

“Hey Now, do you want to play a game?” The robot’s eyes flash red to indicate it understands the question raised by the blonde haired smiling girl standing before it.

“Yes, what game would you like to play?” came Now’s response, to the delight of the group of children encircling the machine. Engaging with Now was just one of the many activities students engaged in during the chilly December Computer Science and Engineering day at the University of Wyoming. This event was held in partnership with the nation-wide hour of code, celebrating computer science and its application and came on the heels of Governor Matt Mead’s proclamation that December 5-11 would be Computer Science Education week.

Vice President for Research, Bill Gern, spoke to approximately 50 students and their parents about becoming engineers, the practical and fun applications of such careers and opportunities that await students here at the University should they come in the future. He shared tales of his own children pursuing computer science and the cool opportunities available to them now, as adults. 

An important element of the event was diversity. Students traveled among six different stations in which they experienced how code and computer science informs art while painting by code, ecology while testing water and light of plants through Arduino technology, developing and deploying secret messaging through code, moving robots by using brain waves, as well as the more traditional robotics activities.

Students came from across southwest Wyoming to participate. In addition to the coding activities, participants and their families attended a University of Wyoming men’s basketball game and watched the Cowboys defeat Montana’s Grizz.  

We offer many thanks to the professors, undergraduates, and graduate students who donated their time and enthusiasm with students! 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Student Gets Ready to 'Rock' the AGU Conference

 After a semester of hard work University of Wyoming geology students have the opportunity to present their research at the AGU Conference in San Francisco December 12th - 16th. This is the largest worldwide conference in the geophysical sciences that brings together scientists, educators, and students. One UW student that will be presenting her research at the conference will be Casey McGuffy.

McGuffy, a New Jersey native, came to Wyoming after an undergraduate professor recommended she attend UW for her masters degree in geophysics. She became interested in geology due to her love of the outdoors.

Casey McGuffy working this summer in Jemez, N.M. 
McGuffy's research is focused on bedrock weathering at two mountain watersheds. Her first site is the Jemez Critical Zone, New Mexico and the Reynolds Creek Critical Zone, Idaho.

"The Critical Zone is a near-surface layer of the Earth that supports terrestrial life. This layer includes the bed rock up to the tops of the trees. So it is not only studied by geologists, but ecologists and soil scientists are also involved," McGuffy explains.

The Critical Zone site in Jemez, N.M. 

Over the summer McGuffy worked at the Jemez site, but she was unable to see the Reynolds Creek location. She used data collected by other colleagues from the Idaho site to contribute to her research project. McGuffy studied the thickness of regolith, the layer of soil, saprolite, and underlying weathered bedrock, to determine differences in weathering. The two zones have similar climates and ecosystems allowing for comparisons.

McGuffy found that the primary differences between weathering along the rock profiles were due to slope aspect. It was also noted that seismic profiles between the two sites lead to variations in weathering due to the different rock types.

Previously McGuffy had her undergraduate research presented for her at the conference, but this will be her first year attending. The AGU conference is also an occasion that is great for professional networking. As McGuffy finishes her masters degree, she wishes to create connections that could lead to possible career opportunities.

"I look forward to seeing other peoples research, talking with people about it, and attending different key note speeches," McGuffy adds.

We wish Casey good luck on her research presentation and all of her future endeavors. She is sure to 'rock' the field of geophysics.

Jemez, N.M.