@ColoradoStateU joins $9 million Sage project, a continent-wide network of smart sensors

Photo credit: Colorado State University

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Anne Manning):

A multi-institutional team that includes Colorado State University is launching an ambitious plan for building a continent-wide network of smart sensors for environmental monitoring. The goal: giving scientists sensitive new tools for understanding how the planet is changing, whether it’s by high-resolution cameras or by air quality and weather sensors.

The project, called Sage, is supported by $9 million from the National Science Foundation and is led by researchers at Northwestern-Argonne Institute of Science and Engineering. Among Sage’s expert collaborators are CSU scientists Gene Kelly and Jay Ham, who will help to integrate nodes of an existing NSF observatory – with sites at Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station research centers across the state – into the Sage array of environmental sensors.

The idea behind Sage is to move advanced machine learning algorithms into “edge computing,”which is a way to streamline data flowing from internet of things devices. Rather than the traditional method of deploying sensors and collecting the data later, edge computing means that data analysis takes place almost immediately, very near the site where the data was gathered.

By linking small, powerful computers directly to tools like high-resolution cameras, soil water sensors, air quality sensors, and light detector and ranging (LIDAR) systems, the new, distributed infrastructure will enable researchers to analyze and respond to data more quickly. From early detection of wildfire plumes to identifying ultrasonic bat calls, to seeing patterns of pedestrians in busy crosswalks, Sage’s artificial intelligence-enabled sensors will be a new tool for understanding the planet as a whole.

Integrating existing platforms

The new cyberinfrastructure project will be enhanced by partnerships with existing scientific instruments. CSU’s Gene Kelly, a professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences and deputy director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, will lead the integration of Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station sites and NSF’s National Ecology Observatory Network (NEON) into Sage. NEON is an array of 81 instruments at terrestrial and aquatic sites across the country that collect data on plants, animals, soil, water and the atmosphere.

Kelly, who previously served as lead scientist of the NEON network, will specifically work with Sage collaborators to pilot Sage instrumentation on mobile platforms that are currently part of NEON. For example, the existing NEON tower at the Central Plains Experimental Range, 30 miles from CSU, will eventually also host a mobile platform with instruments that can be tested side by side with the NEON tower.

Ham, a professor in soil and crop sciences, is a co-principal investigator with Kelly and will set up networks for soil water monitoring and atmospheric measurements at CSU’s Agricultural Research Development and Education Center and other agricultural experiment station centers.

“We’ll deploy NEON mobile platforms and other sensors at many of our research centers, effectively creating an agricultural observatory for the state,” Kelly said.

Leaders of the project think Sage’s distributed, intelligent sensor networks will prove essential for understanding the impacts of global urbanization and climate change on agricultural and natural ecosystems.

In addition to Northwestern University and CSU, the research team includes University of Chicago, George Mason University, University of California San Diego, Northern Illinois University, University of Utah, and the Lincoln Park Zoo.

#Colorado rafting team falls short in second attempt at speed record down the #GrandCanyon — The Colorado Sun

The U.S. Rafting Team has enlisted three veteran Grand Canyon guides in a mission to set a new speed record for descending the Colorado River’s 277 miles through the canyon. The team tested a new raft design last month on the Ruby Horsethief and Westwater canyons, rowing from Loma to Utah’s Dewey Bridge in about nine hours. (Robbie Prechtl, special to The Colorado Sun)

From The Colorado Sun (Jason Blevins):

They finished in 37 hours, 55 minutes, missing the 34-hour, 2-minute record set by kayaker Ben Orkin in 2016.

As the miles and minutes passed, the crew on the customized cataraft was feeling strong and pulling hard on their oars, but their pace slipping.

“We just didn’t have enough water,” said John Mark Seelig, whose Colorado-based U.S. Rafting Team was joined by three veteran Colorado River guides on Friday and Saturday in a speed-record attempt to descend 277 miles through the Grand Canyon

As the river dipped to 10,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) and the crew outraced a pulse of water released from the Glen Canyon Dam upstream, the record slipped away…

The team of eight arrived at Phantom Ranch, at mile 88, at 11 a.m. on Friday, about 11 hours after they pushed into the Colorado River from Lees Ferry. That was only four minutes off their pace to reach the Pearce Ferry takeout around 10:20 a.m. Saturday. But that was also the peak of the surge released from Glen Canyon Dam. Holding close to a 5 mph rowing speed, the water slowed down with each mile. By midnight, the river had dropped from a daily high of close to 14,500 cfs to around 10,500 cfs

Speed records have a long history in the Grand Canyon, dating back to 14-day descents in the late 1800s on log rafts captained by adventurers who likely weren’t racing but simply rowing. In 1951 Grand Junction brothers Bob and Jim Rigg set out to purposely set the speed record. They pushed their wooden row boat into the river at Lees Ferry when the river was roaring at 43,100 cfs and finished in 52 hours and 41 minutes. That record stood until 1983, when Kenton Grua, Rudi Petschek and Steve Reynolds caught another flood-stage flow and rowed their wooden dory, the “Emerald Mile,” down the canyon in 36 hours, 38 minutes.

In January 2016, Orkin, an accountant in Aurora, paddled his carbon-fiber race kayak solo down the canyon, finishing in 34 hours and 2 minutes. That record was even more remarkable considering he flipped in Lava Falls and swam from his kayak, alone and at night.

The team this weekend had a clean run with zero mishaps.

Lava Falls: “This, I was told, is the biggest drop on the river in the GC. It’s 35 feet from top to bottom of the falls,” John Fowler. The photo was taken from the Toroweap overlook, 7 June 2010, via Wikimedia.

“We got our revenge on Lava. The boat was fantastic. Everything and everyone held up perfectly. We ran the lines we wanted,” Seelig said. “The water just wasn’t there for us.”

Orkin was paddling a narrow, sleek craft that sliced through water. The Emerald Mile was a wooden dory meant to cut through the river. The raft carrying eight — even with a pair of narrow pontoons beneath a lightweight frame — pushes water out of its way. It might not be possible for a raft to set a speed record in the Grand Canyon…

“OK, if someone was like ‘Hey, I have a permit on this date and it’s going to be this flow’ and we have a crew that is training — that’s a lot of variables — maybe who knows,” Seelig said. “But right now, I’m like ‘No way. Never again.’”

Map of Grand Canyon National Park via the NPS

R.I.P. Neil Peart: “I will choose a path that’s clear. I will choose free will”

LEICESTER, ENGLAND – 21st JUNE: Drummer Neil Peart of Canadian progressive rock band Rush at his kit during a soundcheck at the De Montfort Hall, Leicester, 21st June 1980. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)

From The New York Times (Jon Pareles):

His drumming was at once intricate and explosive, expanding Rush’s power-trio dynamics. His lyrics transformed the band’s songs into elaborate suites.

Neil Peart, the pyrotechnical drummer and high-concept lyricist for the Canadian progressive-rock trio Rush, died on Tuesday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 67.

The cause was brain cancer, according to a statement by the band’s spokesman, Elliot Mintz.

Rush was formed in 1968 but found its long-term identity — as the trio of Geddy Lee on vocals, keyboards and bass, Alex Lifeson on guitars and Mr. Peart on drums — after Mr. Peart replaced the band’s founding drummer, John Rutsey, in 1974.

Mr. Peart’s lyrics transformed the band’s songs into multi-section suites exploring science fiction, magic and philosophy, often with the individualist and libertarian sentiments that informed songs like “Tom Sawyer” and “Freewill.” And Mr. Peart’s drumming was at once intricate and explosive, pinpointing odd meters and expanding the band’s power-trio dynamics; countless drummers admired his technical prowess.

In a recording career that continued into the 2010s, Rush headlined arenas and had more than a dozen platinum albums. Mr. Peart was also an author, writing books about his travels and his memoirs. After a Rush tour in 2015, he retired from performing, citing its physical toll. According to the band’s statement, he had been suffering from brain cancer for three and a half years…

Neil Peart was born on Sept. 12, 1952, in Hamilton, Ontario, where his parents, Glen and Betty Peart, had a dairy farm. In 1980 he told Modern Drummer magazine that as a child he would “pick up chopsticks and play on my sister’s playpen.”

[…]

In 1974, an audition got him into Rush. He became the band’s lyricist, he said in 1980, “just because the other two guys didn’t want to write lyrics.” He added that he considered the band’s lyrics “secondary” to the music…

Mr. Peart grew up as a fan of loud, flashy drummers like Keith Moon, Gene Krupa, John Bonham and Ginger Baker, and he was known for hitting his drum kit hard. But as his playing developed, he quickly earned a reputation for precisely conceived, meticulously executed drum parts.

He expanded the standard drum kit with double bass drums and a wide array of cymbals, wood blocks, bells and timpani, and he eventually added electronic percussion to his arsenal when it suited the music.

His recording career with Rush began with the band’s second album, “Fly by Night,” in 1975. His approach immediately transformed the music from blues-based hard rock to compositions that were more demanding, ambitious and changeable. Rush’s 1976 album, “2112,” began with a 20-minute, seven-part title track…

Rolling Stone placed Mr. Peart at No. 4 in its 2016 list of “100 Greatest Drummers of All Time.” Mr. Peart paid tribute to one of his influences when he produced a two-volume compilation, “Burning for Buddy,” pairing the Buddy Rich Big Band with jazz and rock drummers including Mr. Peart, Max Roach, Bill Bruford, Steve Gadd and Omar Hakim…

Although Rush’s music was proudly untrendy, it drew fiercely loyal fans who embraced lyrics like those Mr. Peart wrote for “The Spirit of Radio”:

All this machinery making modern music

Can still be open-hearted

Not so coldly charted

It’s really just a question of your honesty.

Video is from the Snakes & Arrows Tour, recorded at the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam, Netherlands on October 16 and 17, 2007.

Eyewitness account plus scavenged elk carcass indicates likely presence of multiple wolves in northwest #Colorado — @ColoradoParksWildlife

Grey Wolf. Photo credit: USFWS via CPW

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (Mike Porras):

Eyewitness account plus scavenged elk carcass indicates likely presence of multiple wolves in northwest Colorado

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials say an eyewitness report of six large canids traveling together in the far northwest corner of the state last October, in conjunction with last week’s discovery of a thoroughly scavenged elk carcass near Irish Canyon – a few miles from the location of the sighting – strongly suggests a pack of gray wolves may now be residing in Colorado.

According to the eyewitness, he and his hunting party observed the wolves near the Wyoming and Utah borders. One of the party caught two of the six animals on video.

“The sighting marks the first time in recent history CPW has received a report of multiple wolves traveling together,” said CPW Northwest Regional Manager JT Romatzke. “In addition, in the days prior, the eyewitness says he heard distinct howls coming from different animals. In my opinion, this is a very credible report.”

After learning about the scavenged elk carcass, CPW initiated an investigation which is still ongoing. At the site, the officers observed several large canid tracks from multiple animals surrounding the carcass. According to CPW wildlife managers, the tracks are consistent with those made by wolves. In addition, the condition of the carcass is consistent with known wolf predation. (Photos below)

“The latest sightings add to other credible reports of wolf activity in Colorado over the past several years,” said Romatzke. “In addition to tracks, howls, photos and videos, the presence of one wolf was confirmed by DNA testing a few years ago, and in a recent case, we have photos and continue to track a wolf with a collar from Wyoming’s Snake River pack.

Romatzke says from the evidence, there is only one logical conclusion CPW officials can make.

“It is inevitable, based on known wolf behavior, that they would travel here from states where their populations are well-established,” he said. “We have no doubt that they are here, and the most recent sighting of what appears to be wolves traveling together in what can be best described as a pack is further evidence of the presence of wolves in Colorado.”

Romatzke adds CPW will continue to operate under the agency’s current management direction.

“We will not take direct action and we want to remind the public that wolves are federally endangered species and fall under the jurisdiction of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. As wolves move into the state on their own, we will work with our federal partners to manage the species,” he said.

The public is urged to contact CPW immediately if they see or hear wolves or find evidence of any wolf activity. The Wolf Sighting Form can be found on the CPW website.

For more information about wolves, visit the CPW website.

Lake Nighthorse changing the game for annual bird count — The Durango Herald

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

…volunteers with the National Audubon Society’s annual bird count, which has been ongoing since 1949, say they are starting to see the impact the new body of water is having on different species of birds around Durango in winter months.

“Lake Nighthorse has created a different habitat,” said John Bregar, a member of the Durango Bird Club. “It’s attracting water fowl and fish-eating birds we didn’t use to get so much of before. It’s pretty cool to be monitoring that.”

[…]

A group of about nine eared grebe, a water bird, which is a rare sight on the Christmas count, were spotted on Lake Nighthorse last year. Double-crested cormorant, a seabird, used to leave Southwest Colorado for warmer pastures but have taken up at the reservoir during the winter.

And two horned grebes, another water bird, which Bregar said were never recorded on a Christmas count and are not common in Southwest Colorado in general, are now wintering on Lake Nighthorse…

Bregar said aside from the rare finds, all kinds of birds take advantage of the waters and fish of Lake Nighthorse, such as bald eagles, loons and mergansers.

“It’s a deep body of water with a lot of fish,” he said, “so fish-eating birds are quite prevalent.”

In all, 31 volunteers counted 6,279 individual birds and 82 different species Dec. 15.

For reference, 2017 was seen as a good year for the bird count, with volunteers finding 85 species and 7,452 individual birds.

And in 2018, the count, which was conducted Dec. 16, found a strong number of diverse species – 82 – but the number of individual birds was down to 6,732…

Some interesting observations from the count include:

  • Bird counters noted a near record high number of northern harriers, a raptor, at 19. In a previous year, 20 were spotted
  • The bird count broke the record for white-winged doves. Only twice before has the count recorded that species, and each time, it was just one dove. “This year we recorded six white-winged doves, five near the upper Animas River and one along Florida Road,” Bregar said. “Durango has had a small population of white-winged doves hanging out in the northern portions of our city for years, but they seldom stray far enough south to get counted in our Christmas bird count.”
  • A flock of 21 snow geese was spotted flying above the skies in Durango. The birds usually are not seen in Southwest Colorado.
  • The most abundant bird spotted was the Canada goose at almost 1,200. Second place goes to juncos, a medium-sized sparrow, at around 1,000.
  • Lake Nighthorse and Durango March 2016 photo via Greg Hobbs.

    Coyotes figured out how to survive in the city. Can urban Coloradans learn to coexist? — The #Colorado Sun

    Coyote Yosemite National Park. Yathin S Krishnappa [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

    Here’s a report Kevin Simpson that’s running in The Colorado Sun. Click through and read the whole thing, here’s an excerpt:

    A recent rash of attacks on dogs in the Parker area reignited a long-running conversation about one of the most resilient predators in North America

    Wildlife experts say the situation reflects a recurring phenomenon, a cycle of coyote activity that ebbs and flows throughout the so-called urban-wildland interface — and now, well into the urban core — literally from Los Angeles to New York.

    “It does seem periodic,” says Kristin Cannon, an area wildlife manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “We’ll go several years where there’s no issues, or very minor ones. Coyotes are pretty ubiquitous anymore, but as far as conflicts with people, and with pets, that seems to flare up every few years one place or another. Because conflicts are so common, it’s hard to quantify.”

    Many communities along the Front Range have an official coyote management plan, which largely defines levels of interaction with the animals and prescribes at what point, and how, action may be taken to mitigate problems.

    Attacks on humans tend to be the tipping point. And while lethal removal looms as an available tool, the emphasis remains on education and adapting human behavior. That strategy reflects the reality that coyotes, despite historical campaigns to eradicate them, have been a fixture on the continent for upwards of five million years.

    And they’re not going away. As longtime coyote researcher Dan Flores, author of “Coyote America,” succinctly puts it: “Resistance is futile.”

    […]

    In many Native American cultures, the coyote appears as an avatar for humans. Tales handed down through generations employ it as a four-legged metaphor, precisely for the way it holds a mirror to human behavior. Native to North America, the coyote’s howl, Flores contends, is “our original national anthem.”

    By the 1920s, even Scientific American inserted the coyote as the shifty trickster-villain in a contemporary political allegory in which it argued that good Americans, if they spy one, should shoot it on sight for patriotic reasons — because the coyote is “the original Bolshevik.”

    Much disdain for coyotes originated within the livestock industry, whose assets run afoul of predatory animals. And that, Flores says, led to an agency of the federal government, then called the Bureau of Biological Survey, seizing on the opportunity to brand itself, in the early 20th century, as the antidote to predation. It proved an effective strategy to guarantee congressional funding.

    Colorado played a pivotal role in the extermination efforts that followed. The Eradication Methods Laboratory, which designed and manufactured the means to kill massive numbers of mostly wolves and coyotes, began producing strychnine in Albuquerque. But in 1921 it moved operations to Denver — where, Flores writes in “Coyote America,” “it would go on to perfect an amazing witch’s brew of ever more efficient, ever deadlier pesticides.”

    Even the eradication campaign came with what Flores calls a “concerted PR effort” to demonize coyotes. Powered by a series of pre-packaged stories from the Biological Survey, he says, major publications all across the country ran fictionalized accounts that cast certain nuisance animals, including the coyote, as Al Capone-style gangsters. Those who would destroy them were cast as heroic G-men.

    Wolves were essentially wiped out in the U.S. by 1925. But coyotes, despite lacking a public relations campaign of their own, more than survived attempts to snuff them. They flourished. So what did they have that wolves didn’t?

    In simple terms, coyotes can live in groups, when it’s advantageous. But when it’s not, they can disperse into pairs or even solitary individuals and scatter across the landscape, making them difficult to locate and eliminate.

    “Wolves are pure pack animals, and hunters discovered if you can track one of the animals in a pack, you can use its scent to prepare bait and get every one in the pack,” Flores says. “But coyotes don’t have the same pack adhesion. That’s the single advantage over wolves that allowed them to survive.”

    So the eradication strategy backfired. Not only did the campaign not wipe them out, but it triggered colonization. When coyotes sense their numbers dwindling, the number of pups in their litters grows larger — a phenomenon called “compensatory breeding.”

    Coyotes migrated all over the country and grew comfortable in urban areas, where they face no natural predators, no hunters shooting at them from helicopters, no leg traps or poisons. Plus, urban areas attract plenty of smaller animals, like rabbits, squirrels, rats and mice, that provide a ready food source…

    For all the talk of how human development has encroached on animals’ natural habitat, the coyote has turned the tables. A recent story in National Geographic reported that coyotes actually have increased their range by 40% since the 1950s, can be found in every state except Hawaii, have become established in Central America and are expected to appear soon in South America…

    Stewart Breck, a researcher with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Wildlife Research Center based in Fort Collins, also specializes in urban coyotes. He has a good idea what’s going on. In fact, he sees two things.

    First, urban coyotes tend to be bolder and “more explorative,” he notes. Breck drew this conclusion from research comparing coyotes in Denver to those that inhabit rural areas, which confirmed the behavior pattern. Similar studies have been repeated in many areas around the country.

    Second, researchers have identified certain “problem individuals” that appear periodically in urban environments. These bad actors tend to be responsible for most of the unusual conflicts with people.