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CSULB Geospatial Research and Mapping (GRAM) Field Program
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Daily Blog for Courtney

More computer!!

Posted on June 28, 2013 by Courtney

Today was another computer day.

I did the exact same thing as yesterday, that being working on my powerpoint presentation. In addition, I finally got around to writing a write-up-paper-essay sort of thing (still not entirely sure what to call it), which ended up being a lot longer than it needed to be. That took up the whole morning and much of the afternoon, and when I finally finished, I remembered that I still needed to export formal maps, create a bibliography, find all the data (I tried to stay organized, but it’s everywhere!) and make amendments on the powerpoint and paper. I spent the rest of the night working on that, and in the evening a bunch of us walked to the beach to watch the moonrise. I guess I’ve never really been anywhere at night where you could actually see the moon rising on the horizon, but it was pretty darn fast. That moon is quick when it wants to be.

I know this is probably the shortest blog post ever, but I’m extremely tired and we have presentations tomorrow, so goodnight!

How much can you computer in a day?

Posted on June 27, 2013 by Courtney

Today was a computer day.

Literally, I sat in front of the computer for like 12 hours today. After a ten-minute run in the field to collect the levelogger I had put out there overnight, I returned to the barn, sat down in front of my computer and did nothing but stare at it for the rest of the day. This levelogger, like the other one, didn’t show any particularly interesting results, but part of me is relieved about the lack of anything interesting, because that helps to reinforce the conclusion I’ve started to come to about saltwater extent – that there isn’t much.

So far, most of my data shows that the salinity of the water drops very quickly as you move away from the ocean until it is almost freshwater, all of this in the same farther east area. Then there is the strip of data I couldn’t collect, and then the same freshwater starts up on the other side. I’m not sure I can make any assumptions about what goes on in between, but from some vegetation research I did today, it appears that that whole area is pretty consistent. That cursed Hau may yet prove useful still.

Besides that, I’ve been working on organizing maps and the data to get some neater array of final products, though I have a feeling I’m going to have my hands full tomorrow trying to get it all. It seems that, though a couple of days ago I felt like I had little to do, so many things have come up since then, suddenly the situation is just the opposite. Hopefully I can get a little more done tonight and really get down to business tomorrow to be able to have some peace of mind Thursday night and practice before presenting. I guess we’ll see how that goes.



A whole lot of layers (39 to be exact - they didn't all fit)

Dull Day

Posted on June 26, 2013 by Courtney

Today was a not-a-whole-lot day.

All I really did was go to the field for a couple of hours to put in a level logger and help Gordan collect some salinity points. Then we waited around for a while to get a ride back to the barn, where I got back to the data-crunching I started yesterday. As of right now, I think I have most of the data I need, so I’ve started to produce a series of maps to help me organize my ideas and get a better feel for the trends I’ve noticed. There’s still some work to do, but a lot of it will have to wait for tomorrow because I’m absolutely exhausted right now and I don’t think I’ll get much more done tonight.

It was also our night to cook dinner, but unlike last week, we just had some pre-prepared food to heat up and some vegetables to sauté, so it only took a couple of hours. After dinner, I continued to work on my maps, and get an idea of what I still need to consider and talk with the professors and TAs about before I can call the question even remotely answered.

This is probably the shortest blog-post yet, but I’m quickly falling asleep at the computer, so I think it’s bed time. Goodnight!


Posted on June 25, 2013 by Courtney

Today was a data-crunching day.

Sunburned and exhausted, I figured it was a better idea not to go out in the field and instead stay back and rest while getting some work done. I spent a good chunk of the day overlaying soil and wetland data over my salinity points and the LiDAR data to see if there were any trends. I’m still not entirely sure what I’m seeing or what it means, but I’m beginning to suspect that the reason the oceanic influence goes so little into the valley is because most of the saltwater is sitting on the bottom and draining into the soil at the edges of the pond/marsh area. Though the data I found show that the soil in that area is well-draining, there is still sitting water and the LiDAR data puts the area at or below sea level, which could mean that it is below the water table. When the land elevation increases, then, the water table would remain the same, with only the fresher water is left sitting on top. This is a trend which appears in the data I collected, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to find some research to tell me whether this is a valid hypothesis or not.

Besides that, I haven’t done much today. I experimented with interpolating my conductivity data, and did it about 15 times before I settled on a method and set of parameters that gave me the accuracy of results I wanted. Even with that, I’m still not sure about the viability of the results, but maybe with a little more experimentation I’ll be able to get it to match better with what’s actually there.

The last progress in data I made tonight was the analysis of the level logger data from one of the marshy areas. Unfortunately, the data I got from it wasn’t all that interesting, and the only fluctuations in conductivity and temperature came from day and night, and the tide didn’t change at all. It may be too early to definitely declare that the ocean does or doesn’t reach that far, but I think I’m going to put in one more level logger tomorrow in a more natural marsh area to see if there’s any last minute clues to collect.

And now, before I keel over from staring at a computer screen for 12 hours, it’s time for bed. Goodnight!

The view from yesterday...


Overlay of conductivity (salinity) interpolation on LiDAR imagery. It looks a bit like a cow to me...


Posted on June 24, 2013 by Courtney

Today, I got burned by a flame 92,960,000 miles away. Not fair.

And being that I’m sunburned and just remembered right now that I forgot to blog yesterday, my apologies in advance for the succinct nature of this post.

Yesterday, like the day before, involved a lot of swamp-stomping, only this time I was actually in a swamp, full of water and mud and mangrove-type trees with creepy roots that hang down from above as they grow their way toward the floor. This swamp was weird, too, because it also had garbage, saltwater and chickens. The garbage was just unpleasant, and the chickens startled me (seriously, what are chickens doing in a swamp?), but what I was really interested in there was the saltwater, and boy did I find it.

The thing is, I almost didn’t, because my practice with the conductivity meter so far has been to measure near the surface, because it’s an easy way to standardize the measurements between points. The problem with that, though, is that saltwater sinks to the bottom while freshwater floats on top. This meant that my initial reading was only 4.0 mS (milli siemens), which is about double the conductivity of drinking water, while the reading at a lower depth taken at the same point was up to 30, which is beginning to near oceanic salinity. With this discovery at the first point, I realized that I would have to take two recordings at every point if I wanted to get accurate data. That being said, it took me a bit longer than I would have liked, and I even had to climb trees periodically when I completely lost all GPS satellites due to the thickness of the canopy. But when I put in the data later last night, there were some interesting trends that I’m excited to look into tomorrow when I have more time and a fresh (not exhausted) mind to think about them.

Today was our full day off, and we had a lot of freedom and a lot of options between all the different cars, which was incredibly awesome. I went with Briton, Emily, Scott and Shelby to Makapu’u after Scott told us that it was his favorite hike. It was a pretty simple, paved climb to the top, where there were beautiful views, some World War II bunkers, and a lighthouse. But the real attraction was down below, some 350 feet down a cliff face that was only just suitable for climbing (for me, that is): the tide pools. Being from the Midwest, I don’t get to experience ocean wildlife or ecosystems all that often, so I was thrilled just to be seeing them in the first place. But then it turned out that we could also swim in them! The tide pools were relatively calm, though there were huge waves hitting the rocks all around us. There was even a sort of geyser-like explosion of water at a point where the rocks were open all the way to the sea level some ten feet below, but in a very narrow channel. When the waves hit hard, there came a few second delay and suddenly the little open space turned into a firebreathing dragon. The other surprise of these massive waves was one we discovered the hard way: that when they hit the rocks, the waves sometimes turn into an arcing spray of water 15 feet high that rains down upon you. This serves as a warning for what comes next, because the same force that powers that wave up in the air also comes rushing in over the edge of the tidepool, sweeping everything there with it toward the cliff face, including people. Better we get forces inward than dragged outward, but it was still unpleasant to be forcibly pummeled against rock walls, and occasionally involuntarily transferred to new pools via unusually slippery rocks that provide no hand or footholds whatsoever. Despite the inevitable discomfort of this, though, we thought it a fine adventure and left happy and satisfied with our first half of the day.

The second half was more relaxed, and involved several hours spent laying on the beach in Waikiki in total apathy and contentment. It was nice to see the more touristy side of Hawaii that you always hear about in people’s vacation stories and though it was crowded, I enjoyed the change of pace a lot. Unfortunately, the rest of me didn’t have the same experience, because I apparently failed at applying sunscreen as pervasively and as repeatedly as necessary. The final result is that I am now pink and sore, and apparently very entertaining to Shelby who has been laughing at me all day because I have handprints on my back (except that she just realized she got sunburned as well, so I think we’re all equals in this). I have no idea how I’ll feel in the morning, but right now, despite the pain, I’m very content with how the day was spent, and it was a much-needed slip away from reality. Before I find something to complain about, I’m just going to go to sleep happy and warm in my sleeping bag. Goodnight!

Muck and Mud

Posted on June 22, 2013 by Courtney

Today was a swamp-stomping day.

That’s the word I now use to describe my research project. Swamp-stomping: the act of moving through swamp or marsh land in search of potential data points, requiring a repeated stomping motion in lieu of regular walking, because it’s too hard to walk like a normal person when you’re 5 foot 2 in 3 foot tall grass and mud. So today I swamp-stomped for 5 hours, and it was simultaneously wonderful and terrible, and muddy. Very muddy.

I did a lot of the same data collection I did yesterday – measuring salinity and temperature in various streams, marshes and bodies of water throughout the wetland area. Like yesterday, there were some strange trends that occurred with salinity, and like yesterday, I’m still not exactly sure what’s causing them. Hopefully I’ll be able to get more information from the Morgan family about any kind of irrigation techniques that they may be using that are causing these salinity patterns.

The day went by quickly in that way, and by the end of it I was exhausted. Because of the way I was collecting data, I ended up with a whole lot of handwritten tables, so I had to spend the next two hours entering it all by hand. In the end, though, it was cool to see the points going up one by one, and to see on the map where I had been and what areas I had covered. There are still some missing pieces, but I think I can take care of most of those tomorrow (tomorrow will be the true swamp-stomping).

And now it’s 11, and though I’m having lots of fun chatting with Audrey while blogging (sorry if some of the sentences don’t make sense), it’s time for bed. Goodnight!

The Sweet Stench of Discovery (and swamps)

Posted on June 21, 2013 by Courtney

Today was a pretty darn awesome day.

I went to bed last night with very little idea of what I was going to do today, and woke up with a game plan. Well, maybe it wasn’t quite that simple, but for the sake of time, let’s just go with that.

We left for the field this morning at the usual time, but this time the hydrology group made a pitstop at the house where Dr. Becker is staying to discuss our projects and work out some technical issues. As I had only up until that point used a GPS, there weren’t really any technical issues on my end, so Emily helped me set up the level-logger to measure tidal influence in the marsh area, and showed me how to use a conductivity probe to test salinity. After a few misdirect

ions on my part and one rather unpleasant near-encounter with a large spider, we found a suitable patch of open water and a low-hanging tree from which to hang the logger. It made me a bit nervous to leave it there overnight, but given all the trouble we had getting to the area, I’m not sure anyone will be passing any time soon.

I spent the next 5 hours or so after that repeatedly dunking the conductivity probe in no less than 72 discrete points spanning about a quarter mile. The process was a bit repetitive, but since the sensor doesn’t log but instead gives direct feedback, I was able to see the changes in salinity as I went and begin to form ideas of what was happening. Contrary to my initial hypothesis of flow direction and salinity, the water appeared to get more saline the farther I went upstream. The conductivity was only about 1,125 uS at highest (the ocean being 58,000 for reference), but still higher than typical drinking water. Ultimately, I left the field confused and wondering if I had somehow broken the conductivity meter, but it was a problem quickly solved.

Being that this was the first dynamic data I’ve ever had to call my own (ground control points don’t count), I was like a kid in a candy store when it came time to put it in the computer. I was way too lazy to look for a GPS cord, so I spent the next hour entering all the latitudes and longitudes by hand (because that’s so much less work than looking for a cord, apparently), once in Google Earth and then again in ArcMap because I didn’t trust it (they were identical). The really exciting part was entering the temperature and salinity data and finally seeing it all on a map, where very suddenly the trends (thankfully there were some) became apparent. Even though I’m still not entirely sure why there appears to be saltwater flowing (possibly intentionally, as I found a mysterious hose), some of the other hydro groups data appears to offer some clues.

Julianna found an aquifer map that, when overlaid, shows that the marshy area I’m studying falls exactly within an uncontained aquifer, meaning that there could be saltwater seeping into the groundwater. In addition, the LiDAR data (which is gorgeous, by the way), showed differences in elevation that sets all of the marshes right around sea level. This helps to distinguish this set of ponds (some of which are manmade) from the set of even more rectangular ponds next to them, which are held above sea level and apparently filled with pipes.

Our final conclusion in all of this is that there is more exploration to be done, more water to be tested, and some land-owners to question and that tomorrow I will probably fall into a marsh at some point (that one’s my conclusion). Hopefully, if all goes as planned (as if that ever happens), after tomorrow we’ll have a better idea of what’s causing the strange saltwater flow and how that relates with the rest of the hydrologic system in the valley. I’m loving how all of our separate projects are coming together to create something so overarching.

Now, adventure needs energy and energy needs sleep, which means it’s bedtime once again!!! (I really like sleep) Goodnight!


Rainbow data is the best data. (and LiDAR is the best thing ever)

One day late…

Posted on June 21, 2013 by Courtney

Today was yesterday. (aka I didn’t blog yesterday because I got too tired and just fell asleep instead)

Yesterday was day 1 of individual project field work. Originally, I was excited about some of the things that I found, but that excitement has been dwarfed by the newer discoveries of tonight, so I’ll get through this post really fast and get onto today soon.
I hadn’t really thought of a good plan for collecting data, because I didn’t know the area well, so I decided to make it a survey day. Basically, it was an excuse to go exploring. I used the WorldView imagery and Google Earth to decide which areas warranted further exploration and identified about 14 separate “regions of interest”. Some of them I already knew to be ponds or marshes, but I wanted to try to informally map out the flow in my head. I also went along the highway/coast to find the outlets of the groundwater into the ocean, and got into all sorts of trouble (the good kind) climbing trees to avoid stepping in muck. I didn’t come out of it as muddy as I would’ve hoped, but at least the mosquitoes didn’t get me!

After field day, it was my group’s night to cook dinner, so Shelby, Julianna, Emily (after Paul bailed on us – but just kidding Paul, we’ve forgiven you), and I got to work on the menu of the day – stir fry. It seemed pretty straightforward at the start: chop vegetables, chicken and tofu, cook vegetables, chicken and tofu, and in the meantime cook the rice in the rice cooker. Turns out, though, that with only one wok and one frying pan, those steps aren’t so simple after all. FOUR HOURS LATER we finally finished cooking, which unfortunately forced everyone to eat at about 8pm. But it was a ton of fun to cook together, and good practice for me since I can’t cook for my life, so it ended up being a four hours well spent.

And because of those four hours, when dinner was over and I had taken a few minutes to consider my findings for the day, I basically passed out in the hammock with little thought of doing anything else. So here’s my (one day late) blog post!

So sleepy…

Posted on June 18, 2013 by Courtney

Today was a sleepy day. One 16-hour battle of gravity against eyelids, and gravity tended to win.

It’s kind of (completely) my fault, because I did stay up till past midnight last night knowing I’d end up waking up around 6, but what I didn’t anticipate was how awful I’d really end up feeling. Within an hour of waking up, all I wanted to do was go back to bed.

The professors came in around 8, and I made the unfortunate mistake of sitting in the hammock during the whole discussion, essentially telling my brain it was bed time. But I managed to stay awake by eating cashews and peanuts, so it was okay.
During the discussion, we went through each of our project ideas, and the professors pointed out a few flaws in mine that I hadn’t really noticed before and which rendered it a somewhat pointless topic of investigation. A bit painful, but nevertheless necessary. It’s better to be realistic now than spend two weeks collecting data only to come to an empty, useless conclusion.

After lunch was the start of the next battle in the endless war against sleep, and this time sleep won. Every time I sat down, I fell asleep, which made it very difficult to get any work done or think of any other project ideas. Eventually I convinced myself that it was okay to take a short nap if it meant I’d be able to get more done later, so I conceded and passed out for a bit.

I didn’t sleep long, but I still can’t really remember the afternoon because I think a lot of it was spent wandering aimlessly in circles. Eventually, I came up with another idea, but when the hydrology-interested people all got together, it turned out that this one, too, was a bit unfit for investigation. While everyone else talked through their ideas, it bought be time to think of more, but at that point I was stretched for just about anything. It turned out to be a very bad day to have gotten too little sleep. In the end, I remembered something that some of the professors had mentioned a few days before, and that Gordan had also brought up, but was no longer planning to do: the marshland between the coast and the valley. With some help from Dr. Becker and Dr. Wechsler, I managed to develop something of a research question and plan, and I think after I’ve had more time to process it, I’ll be able to come up with some more ideas of my own. Though it wasn’t initially my plan, I am excited to see where this will go (and what sorts of trouble I’ll get into mucking around in the swamp). My only regret is that part of the study area falls in the pasture with the demon cows that chased Greg and I last week, so I don’t know how I feel about that, but I’m sure I can work it out somehow.

Now, the sleep war is over, and guess who’s about to win? Goodnight!

Looking for Dirt (Which can be surprisingly hard to find…)

Posted on June 18, 2013 by Courtney

Today was adventure day! I think I used that one already, but oh well.

Today was also kind of a confusing day, but that’s okay. A little confusion is good for the mind, like exercise for your brain.

I woke up this morning not entirely sure what I would be doing today, but figured that it would probably involve going out to the field. With that assumption in mind, I got dressed and took my usual chemical bath of bugspray and sunscreen, only to learn at about quarter to 8 that we weren’t necessarily supposed to go to the field right away unless we absolutely have to. As I was relatively unsure about whether or not I had a good reason to go, I jumped at the opportunity when Paul offered to drive some of us out halfway through the day. A nice compromise that avoided all actual decision making.

While in the barn, I thought I should probably be productive in some way, so I started to look into indexes for measuring soil and vegetation moisture, to see if there might be some way I could apply it to my project (or at least my project idea. Still not sure if it’ll work out the way I see it in my head). I found a few excellent articles that kept me occupied until we finally got out to Ka’a’awa.

Once there, I realized that my time might have been better spent planning a little better for what exactly I wanted to do with my time, but it was too late for anything formal so I sort of just jumped right in. Thanks to Kerry, I had a little handheld GPS just to get basic lat-long information, and I decided to start looking for areas of exposed soil along the valley walls that might be useful when applying soil moisture indexes (most of them, or at least most of the ones for which we have data available in the correct wavelength, don’t work well with any sort of groundcover). While doing that, being me, I naturally got distracted by just about everything, and ended up doing some investigation into hydrology, at least to the extent it seemed relevant to the project. I found a sort of cistern beside the cliff wall where they were rechanneling water, which helped to explain some of the apparent disappearing water situations of the valley, though not all. Still, the adventure was a good one, and I managed to get about 15 points of interest in the part of the south valley I covered. All in all, an effective day for only being a couple hours’ field time.

When we got back, I jumped right in to see how my points fell, but since I was unfamiliar with the GPS system, I just plotted points for the latitudes and longitudes I had collected in Google Earth. Unfortunately, the imagery had a lot of clouds and/or poor coloring, depending on the year I used, so it was very difficult to actually see anything I had marked. Also unfortunately, that may mean that I have to completely rule out soil indexing in the visible wavelengths because it appears that there’s not actually enough there to analyze. I’m not without hope yet, though, because I also found some promising vegetation moisture indexes, and if there’s one thing that valley has covered, it’s vegetation.

As far as I know, we’re presenting some idea of our projects tomorrow, and though I think I’ve got mine pretty well thought through, I’m not sure I’m quite prepared for a potential tearing-apart, so I should probably just go to sleep. I already fell asleep on several car rides today. Not anticipating too much trouble sleeping tonight. So, goodnight!


Dirt. It's thrilling, I know.

About Courtney