Friday, October 28, 2016

WyCEHG Voices of the River

Learn how one University of Wyoming student conducts research that reimagines the science behind water in the Mountain West. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Following the Flow

Better Understanding Water Processes in Wyoming 

Wyoming is a state that pays attention to water. As a semi-arid head water state, citizens and organizations need to know how much water we have, and where this water is going. With scientific research we can answer these questions. Working with WyCEHG, Associate Professor Ginger Paige has been able to conduct hydrology research that has been able to contribute to a better understanding of water processes across the state.

She became interested in hydrology after working with the Peace Corps for three years in Mali, located in West Africa. She worked on community development and technology to improve well construction and irrigation in the area.

She is currently working on two different research projects; one in the upper Wind River Basin watershed and another in the Crow Creek watershed.

"Wyoming is beautiful and I love the places where we work. I'd rather be doing the ground research than modeling. Measurements give you the chance to look at variability such as changing landscapes or changing soil," Paige said.

Through her research Paige has been able to quantify the return flow processes in the Wind River Basin using geophysics technology provided by WyCEHG. Her team has been looking at the partitioning of surface and subsurface water and mapping out the subsurface hydrologic pathways.

At the Crow Creek watershed site there is a focus on the partitioning of surface waters. The next step for these findings are putting it into a watershed modeling framework. This modeling demonstrates where the water is going; whether it returns to the stream, is transpired, or goes into deep percolation.

The results from this research will help inform water management decisions when looking at the tradeoffs between irrigation practices. 

"WyCEHG has given us new instrumentation and new ideas to expand our capability and allows us to work with partners across Wyoming," Paige said.

Communication with other stakeholders in Wyoming is an integral part of Paige's work. Part of the outreach that Paige has participated in includes Water Interest Group meetings.

"We will have three meetings over the five year grant. The first introduced WyCEHG and it's capacity, to water entities in the state and region, in terms of water resource questions, and the second highlighted the partnerships we've formed. The final meeting will be a summary of what we've been able to do and a pathway forward," Paige said.

WyCEHG also attends Wyoming's monthly water forums led by the state's engineer office to share information on their findings with other state agencies.

Paige has also worked with graduate students as a supervisor and project director.

"Graduate students are helping me with my research but also have their own research topics. For masters or PhD students its important that they have ownership for their own research and they tend to be allowed more freedom. We have shared goals, but we do want that ownership," Paige said.

The biggest piece of advice she has for students interested in science research is to find an area of research that they are passionate about.

"Find a piece that really interests you because science takes time. It's about asking the questions, finding the answers and taking the time to do field work or lab work," Paige said.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Arapaho Ranch Safari

By: Jennifer Wellman

Mentor program offers exploratory study for summer youth

During late July, several organizations on the Wind River Reservation collaborated to provide an interdisciplinary field camp, the Arapaho Ranch Safari, for students aged 14-23. The setting was Arapaho Ranch, a rural, historic ranch on the Wind River Reservation, northwest of Thermopolis at the confluence of the Owl Creek Mountains, the Absaroka Range, and Hamilton Dome. 

During the program, youth improved the Arapaho
 Ranch by working on service projects.
Run by the Northern Arapaho Tribe, the ranch includes a cattle operation, historic homesteads, and vast tribal lands and water for creative and scientific study. 

The Northern Arapaho Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Summer Program employs reservation youth in various tribal departments and businesses. This summer, with a grant from the US Department of Labor, WIA formed a partnership to create the Ranch Safari with Wind River EPSCoR, Maker Space 307, Poetics of Peace, Wind River Native Advocacy Center, Arapaho Tribal Health and numerous other artists and local experts. 

The Ranch Safari was the first, multi-faceted 5 day field camp for WIA workers that offered an adventure in filmmaking, cultural awareness, scientific study, and creative environmental exploration. 

The group set base camp at the historic old mansion, built in the late 1800's, and the Ranch's yurt, established in 2012 by the Wyoming Conservation Corps. Water conservation was critical during the week as the house's plumbing was not functional; students were able to use other local showers and bathrooms and had to haul water for drinking and cooking. 

Each day consisted of chores and activities, including assisting with cooking and clean up. Meals included fresh salads, lean meats, and delicious snacks to guide students toward healthy options that were easy to make, with assistance from UW's Centsible Nutrition Program

Youth went on a horse culture ride with Alison
Sage from Arapaho Tribal Health.
Ranch Safari highlights included: 
  • Documentary film-making with Alan O'Hashi, a regional film producer, using iPad minis;
  • Poetry reading and writing with henry Real Bird (Crow Tribe), the 2009-2011 Montana poet laureate;
  • Field trips to cultural and environmental sites: a buffalo jump, tipi rings, historic petroglyphs at Legend Rock, Thermopolis hot springs, and Anchor Reservoir;
  • Service learning projects at the mansion and the ranch headquarters, clearing vegetation and debris from the grounds and updating paint on a roadside fence;
  • Horse culture ride with Alison Sage from Arapaho Tribal Health;
  • Buffalo wallow ecology discussion with Jason Baldes, an Eastern Shoshone scientist and buffalo expert.

Ranch Safari mentors were:

Clarinda Calling Thunder, WIA program director
Jason Baldes, Wind River Native Advocacy Center
Hetty Brown-Tabaha, WIA Program
Alfred Burson, Arapaho tribal guide
Susan Grinels, Maker Space 307
Lorre Hoffman, Wind River Development Fund
Clina Longtimesleeping, WIA Program
Barbara May, photographer
Alan O'Hashi, Wyoming Community Media
Kelli Pingree, UW Centsible Nutrition
Henry Real Bird, Crow Tribe
Alison Sage, Arapaho Tribal Health
Marvene Thunder, Sky People Higher Education
Manuela Twitchell, local artist and poet
Jennifer Wellman, Wind River EPSCoR

In addition to US Department of Labor funding for the ranch Safari, Wyoming EPSCoR supported the purchase of supplies, food, and teaching materials. Additional funds were provided by a Wyoming Arts Council grant to Wind River Development Fund, a local non-profit. 

For more information on this project or other collaborative science opportunities on the Wind River Reservation, contact Jennifer Wellman at 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Spring Creek Water Project

On Tuesday Sept. 27, 2016 Spring Creek Elementary 3rd and 4th graders went to LaPrele Park to study human impacts on water and the water cycle. 

Prior to their field trip, the class had studied the water cycle, aquifers, and the effects humans have on water.

Wyoming EPSCoR was able to help teachers bring place-based education where students could preform tests and observe water close to home. Science and Math Teaching Center graduate student, Claire Ratcliffe and EOD coordinator Emily Vercoe went out with the class to help with class discussions and testing. 

Before they started testing, the class learned what an aquifer is and how features like a spring form in an aquifer. An example used was the Casper Aquifer. The Casper Aquifer accounts of 60-100% of Laramie's drinking water. Students were able to make personal connections to the science of water by studying it in the context of their local environment. 

Students tested water quality in Huck Finn Pond, a spring fed fishing pond. They were also able to test along Spring Creek. This creek is also spring fed, but comes from a different source further east. These two different testing areas offered the opportunity to compare and contrast moving and still water. 

The class conducted a variety of tests including; pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and temperature. Based on the information collected, students could make predictions on the health of the stream and pond. 

While testing, students had time to observe macro-invertebrates. Macro-invertebrates commonly found in the water of Huck Finn Pond and Spring Creek are stoneflies, mayflies, or sowbugs. Most students went hunting for crawdads, by far the most coveted catch of the macro-invertebrates. 

There was also playful creativity incorporated into the field trip. The students played "Macro Mayhem", a version of the game sharks and minnows. Students were asked to mimic a stream, helping them to see how sensitive macro-invertebrates quickly die off if stream quality is damaged.

To conclude their day of scientific explorations the class walked back to school along Spring Creek Road, making observations along the way. 

The class can look forward to another day out in the field on Oct. 10 when they return to the water cycle, with a focus on watersheds.