Summer Campers Have Fun Exploring Biogeochemistry

Last week, we wrote about the new Mission Earth Scout One science camp that one our graduate students, Isabel Carrera Zamanillo, launched this August. The camp offers underrepresented middle and high school students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a variety of scientific disciplines, and to help out with the different subjects, Isabel recruited several folks from SEFS to serve as guest scientists for a day. Among the volunteers was SEFS doctoral student Catherine Kuhn, who is part of Professor David Butman’s Landscape Biogeochemistry Lab, and she took her turn leading instruction for the campers on Monday, August 8.

Students practice field sampling for methane and carbon dioxide along Ravenna Creek.

Students practice field sampling for methane and carbon dioxide along Ravenna Creek.

Catherine and her research assistant, SEFS undergrad Rachel Yonemura, taught a lesson about the freshwater carbon cycle and introduced students to the idea of how greenhouse gases can be emitted from lakes, rivers and streams. The lesson also included a section on carbon mapping and different tools that can be used to visualize geospatial data.

Rachel followed up by applying some of the new concepts to urban stream chemistry in Ravenna Creek, which is one of Rachel’s study sites for her senior capstone research. So later that afternoon, the students then practiced field sampling for methane and carbon dioxide at an access site where Ravenna Creek meets the Montlake Slough.

Catherine says the students did an outstanding job collecting field samples, and the Landscape Biogeochemistry Lab team had a great time working with the young scientists in the making.

Photos © Catherine Kuhn.

2016_08_Space Camp2

Notes from the Field: Helicopter Sampling in Alaska

Earlier this week, Professor David Butman returned from spending 11 days in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, where he had the memorable opportunity to conduct his field sampling by helicopter and float plane. He was able to coordinate the trip on a shoestring budget, as well, thanks to a great partnership with NASA and colleagues at the University of North Carolina, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Civil & Environmental Engineering at the University of Washington (where Butman holds a joint appointment).

Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge.

Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge.

Professor Butman’s research involves measuring fluxes of carbon dioxide and methane in water systems—especially in Arctic and boreal ecosystems—and how those releases of greenhouse gasses are impacting the global carbon cycle and climate change. At a conference two years ago, he connected with Professor Tamlin Pavelsky, a hydrologist at the University of North Carolina’s Department of Geological Sciences. They stayed in touch and kept talking about potential collaborations, and their interests eventually aligned over an engineering project in Alaska.

Pavelsky has been helping with field calibration for a new radar sensor that NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is planning to launch on a satellite in 2020. Through its Surface Water and Ocean Topography, or SWOT, mission, NASA is developing this sensor to observe changes in water level to within a millimeter of accuracy, which will have important applications for measuring water volume in lakes and rivers, as well as impacts of flooding.

Daylight extended until nearly midnight, giving them incredibly long days to collect samples. “You lose track of time,” says Butman, taking a “sampling selfie” here.

Daylight extended until nearly midnight, giving them incredibly long days to collect samples. “You lose track of time,” says Butman (taking a “sampling selfie” here).

Right now, they’re in the middle of an intense campaign to calibrate the radar sensor and test it by flying over different landforms and water features. So when Butman learned from Pavelsky that some of those test sites would include the Yukon Flats, he pitched the idea of tagging along to conduct his own biogeochemistry measurements at the same time. He had already marked some of those same areas for future sampling, and the timing was perfect to draw different programs together for common goals. NASA agreed to bring him along, and they ended up covering the expense of the helicopter and plane flights in Alaska, and Butman handled the equipment and labor.

He seized the opportunity and spent 16 to 17 hours in the field on the trip. Butman flew around with a pilot and a student technician to assist him, locating lakes from the air and heading down to take measurements. Assisted by Alaska’s endless summer sunshine, they were able to collect tons of data from 18 different lakes. “It was kind of exciting,” he says. “Some of these systems have never been measured.”

Butman has another proposal in with NASA to fund continued research in the Yukon area, and he definitely hopes to get back up there next year. “It was one of my top three field experiences so far, for sure.”

Photos © David Butman.

2015_06_Butman3

New Faculty Intro: David Butman

Professor David Butman, one of three new faculty members with the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS), has been on campus a few weeks now, and he and his family are settling into their new city and neighborhood in Maple Leaf. Like Professor Patrick Tobin, who relocated from West Virginia, Professor Butman comes to us from across the country at Yale University, where he was working as a postdoctoral associate.

David Butman

Perhaps the easiest part about moving across the country to Seattle? Butman, who grew up in a fishing community, will still have tremendous access to water!

New England has been home to Butman for most of his life. He grew up in the historical fishing community of Gloucester, Mass., where most of his family still lives. (His first job out of undergrad, in fact, was working on a commercial fishing boat as an observer with the National Marine Fisheries Service to monitor bycatch for the Marine Mammal Protection Act.) He earned a bachelor’s in economics and environmental studies from Connecticut College, a master’s in environmental science from Yale, and then his Ph.D. in forestry and environmental studies from Yale in 2011.

Switching oceans and coasts, Butman joins us as part of a cluster hire in freshwater science, and he holds a joint professorship with Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and SEFS—though his office is based in our school. The vision for the Freshwater Initiative involves interdisciplinary collaboration across a number of programs and units in the College of the Environment, including CEE and SEFS, as well as the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and UW Tacoma. Among the initiative’s research themes are ecohydrology, watershed ecology and river restoration, fluvial geomorphology, urban water quality, aquatic biogeochemistry and continental hydrology.

David Butman

Butman already has a few projects in the works, including a collaboration with Professor Christian Torgersen out on the Olympic Peninsula.

As part of this broader freshwater research portfolio, Butman brings a strong background in aquatic biogeochemistry and remote sensing, including the application of new sensors to monitor the environment. He studies the influence of humans and climate on carbon cycling at the intersection of terrestrial and aquatic systems. Specifically, he measures the capacity of ecosystems to change as a result of anthropogenic carbon emissions; human landscape alteration, like logging or development; and the effects of climate change, in order to identify environmental stressors within watersheds and mitigate long-term resource degradation.

Butman already has a few projects ramping up, including one down on the Columbia River to measure carbon cycling around The Dalles Dam. He’s been working closely with the Army Corps of Engineers, and he’s looking to expand the project and do more field work over the next couple summers. Also, in collaboration with Professor Christian Torgersen, he’s secured funding for a student to do carbon sampling in the Sol Duc River out on the Olympic Peninsula.

As he gets his research and lab up and running, Butman will likely start teaching this winter or spring, including the possibility of a remote sensing survey course. We’re extremely excited to have him and his expertise as part of the SEFS community, and we hope you’ll introduce yourselves as soon as you can. You can reach Butman by email or stop by his office in BLD 264 (though we’re still working on his nameplate!).

Welcome, David!

Photos © David Butman.

David Butman