Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wonderful Em4 movie from BYU!

Students at the BYU College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (CPMS) have produced a wonderful movie about their new Emriver Em4.  The first minute contains a hilarious skit about unwise streamside development; after that you can see a fantastic interview with professor Jani Radebaugh.

We're so happy to see such enthusiasm for our Em4, and super impressed by CPMSTV crew's moviemaking skills!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Alix Digital Controller is shipping!

We're very happy to report that, after over a year of intense R&D, our new Alix controller is shipping.

It's designed for advanced teaching and research with our Emriver models.

Using an open-source Arduino hardware-software interface, the Alix controller allows precise control of water flow.   It also meters and displays flow rate, shows accumulated run time and flow, and automatically runs hydrographs.

The controller uses the model’s pump as a flow sensor; a neat idea we developed way back. See our support page for more. 

The controller is back-compatible with all our Em2 models.   It’s an extra on our new Em2 and Em3 models, and costs US$650.

The hardware and software are open source, and we hope to see users hack away.   Its USB port allows easy connection to other computers.

Students could, for example, do real-time plotting of hydrographs as they run, coupled with time-lapse photography of channel changes in the model.

Development of this instrument turned out to be much more time-consuming and expensive than we planned.

It’s not that hard to make something that works, but to make it mass-producible, durable and super-reliable without making cost too high is not easy.

We named the controller after Chris Alix, a genius developer, good guy, colleague, and friend who designed the controller’s circuit board and wrote the software.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Our Lily is published

Lily takes a grab sample, March 2008

Lily Hwang was knee-deep in Broad Hollow Creek in Freeburg, Ill. when she answered a call warning her of an inland hurricane heading her way.  She was collecting a water sample for her master’s thesis, and the rain had already started.  She leaned over an automated storm sampler, screwdriver in hand, trying to repair it as the rainwater soaked her back. 
If the storm sampler’s sensor didn’t trip as waters began to rise, her data would be no good.  So she finished the repairs before heading to safety.

We hired Lily as Ecohydrologist after she finished her master’s because we admired her commitment to her research and her work in river conservation.

Last week, Lily’s data was published in the journal Water, Air, & Soil Pollution, in an article entitled Whole Catchment Land Cover Effects on Water Quality in the Lower Kaskaskia Watershed (J. Miller, J. Schnoonover, K. Williard & C. Hwang). 

In the article, the authors look at the effects of land cover on water quality in southern Illinois.
Lily and her colleagues found elevated levels of several nutrients (including orthophosphate, ammonium and nitrate) and E. coli in agricultural and urban areas, and orthophosphate and E. coli levels exceeded the USEPA criteria in both areas.  Likely sources of these elevated nutrient and fecal levels include fertilizer and runoff. Sewage systems, particularly in urban areas, may also be another contributing source.
In short, fertilizers used for agricultural purposes are ending up in streams, and they’re changing the balance of plant and animal life.  Meanwhile, bacteria that grow in fecal matter are showing up in the streams, too, likely from livestock and urban sewage systems.

“Knowing the sources of water toxins is important,” Lily says, because it helps land managers understand and improve management practices.

For example, she says, problems arise in sewage systems that were built decades ago that didn't account for the possibility that sewage can overflow and mix with sources of drinking water.

Lily's role in the study helped researchers "get to the beginning of the story of urban [development]" and how it affects watersheds, she says. 

"People will develop the land, whether we want them to or not," Lily says.  But understanding problems with development that have occurred in the past will help land managers improve practices in the future.

Aside from land managers and city planners, Lily stresses the importance of educating young people about the interconnectivity of a watershed.  She hopes that to younger generations, water conservation, and every small thing that helps or hinders it, will be as recognizable as recycling programs are to people her age.

Which is why we’re so proud to have Lily on our team.  She had a strong commitment to our mission long before we found her, and she continues to work out of her passion at LRRD as our community educator, curriculum developer, consultant and researcher.