The Methods in Environmental Data Acquisition course was first offered in summer 2012, made possible through training grant funding provided by the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network Office. The overwhelming success and popularity of this first course enabled us to secure additional funding from the LTER to purchase more equipment so we could accommodate more students. Funding from the National Science Foundation Field Station and Marine Laboratories (FSML) program enabled us to outfit the Sevilleta Computer Research Training Laboratory where the majority of the course is based.
The primary objectives of this course are to provide participants with a comprehensive and affordable introduction to the major aspects of field-based environmental data acquisition with an emphasis on hands-on learning. We have observed that opportunities for formal training of this nature are rarely available to scientists working in environmental fields. As a result, researchers are often faced with a steep learning curve when first faced with such tasks as the installation and management of sensors, designing power arrays, programming dataloggers, and selecting an appropriate telemetry solution. Our goal is to present theory and practice as well as to provide a forum for participants to share alternative approaches, successes, and failures.
Your instructors, Renée Brown and Don Natvig, have extensive hands-on technical experience with all aspects of these systems, from photovoltaic systems to wireless telemetry networks to the instrumentation of large-scale, long-term manipulative experiments. Over the past fourteen years, we have encountered and found solutions for numerous challenges inherent in working at remote environmental field sites across a variety of ecosystems. This course provides us a formal opportunity to pass on our knowledge to other researchers working in environmental fields.
The Sevilleta Field Station is host to the Sevilleta Long-Term Ecological Research Program, which possesses a large network of diverse instrumented field research sites that range in elevation from 1400 to 3000 meters and are distributed across several thousand square kilometers throughout remote areas of central and northern New Mexico, USA. These sites are interconnected by Wi-Fi telemetry networks, which connect to the Internet at University of New Mexico facilities, thus providing real-time automated data acquisition from nearly fifty dataloggers and thousands of sensors at meteorological stations, global change experiments, and eddy covariance flux towers. To our knowledge, this is one of the largest remote environmental wireless data acquisition networks in the world. While the majority of sites connected to this network are within the boundaries of the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, the network includes several sites outside the Refuge, with the most distant link being nearly one hundred kilometers from the Sevilleta Field Station. An ancillary network in the Valles Caldera National Preserve in northern New Mexico exists to provide remote connectivity to additional environmental research experiments.