Monday, December 23, 2013

Los Alamos National Laboratory Internship

Hello ENVS Real Life Blogging World!
My name is Marina Meneakis and I am currently a Senior at WSCU majoring in ENVS with a water emphasis and minoring in Biology. In order to fulfill my Environment and Sustainability Internship, I chose to reach out and use my current internship with Los Alamos National Laboratories. I started my career with them in June of 2009 between my junior and senior year of high school and have been fortunate enough to stay with them and utilize this opportunity. Because of the unique circumstances of how I have to complete my internship in a different location and over different periods of time, I am only writing one blog for the week of Thanksgiving break when I completed my first credit of three for the internship. As I complete the following two credits over Winter break, I will be posting more. So lets begin....
Located in Los Alamos, New Mexico, Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL) is historically known for their nuclear weapon development and production for WWII. More specifically, the construction of both nuclear bombs Fat Man and Little Boy. Now, I know what your thinking. How is it that LANL qualifies for a Environment and Sustainability Internship? Well, just like many other things that require clean up after production, LANL has some cleaning up to do. The waste that was generated from creating Fat Man and Little Boy alone was enough to have detrimental impacts on the environment and yet the laboratories continued to produce them throughout the years and still are today. Somewhere along that road, they realized the impacts they were having on the environment and began to make chances by creating the Associate Directorate of Environmental Programs or ADEP. As a member of ADEP's team, our mission is to clean up and protect legacy waste sites in northern New Mexico, process and ship hazardous waste materials to disposal facilities, and monitor both ground and surface water to maintain controls. The organization that I work with under the directorate, Engineering and Technology Environmental Investigations (ET-EI), provides support in the areas of environmental investigation and remediation by monitoring, collecting, and analyzing stormwater
During my work over Thanksgiving break, I completed two objectives within the work place. The first was field work where myself and one other visited our sampling locations from the summer to retrieve automated water samplers. In our case, we were decommissioning Global Water Samplers for the winter and bringing them into the Stormwater Laboratory for cleaning and preparation for the next monitoring season. Field work at the Laboratories consists of proper training (for physical conduction of the work and for the vehicles used in the field), Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and work orders. Work orders are the paper work aspect of the field basically recording conditions of the station and equipment upon arrival and departure along with a "to-do" list of tasks needed to be performed while visiting each location. The second objective I needed to complete was analyzing precipitation data from 2008 forward and calculating the 30 minute maximum intensities for each storm event within those dates. Using radio telemetry, I pulled 5 minute and 15 minute raw data from roughly 30 different gage stations and meteorological towers into Excel to organize and filter the data to show only the rain events that triggered sufficient storms. Then, I went through and analyzed each individual storm calculating total precip, 30 minute maximum intensities, and duration. All in all, the experience was very educational teaching me about federal government protocol, field work, and the many ways that precipitation data is utilized.
Until next time.....
M

Friday, October 4, 2013

Waste Water Treatment Plant Operator Slogans

In touring two local waste water treatment plants (Crested Butte South and Gunnison), and working with many different operators, here are some of their similar comments:

-A lot of people in the waste water industry are getting close to retirement. Many of these operators have worked at the plant for thirty years or more, and are now reaching retirement age. This means there are a lot of positions about to open up locally. I imagine this is trend nationwide with the majority of operators close to retirement.
-These plants were both very small, which had many advantages. These operators had many more aspects of running the facility that they took part including maintenance, waste water treatment, lab work, and any other tasks as needed. Large cities tend to have operators "sit in a room and turn a knob," instead of being involved in all aspects of the facility. Working in a smaller plant provides more opportunities to learn new things, and less boredom.
-The job security is very stable "because everyone poops." Demand for these positions is not expected to decrease, which brings me to the next popular slogan "one way or another, that crap's got to get cleaned up". I appreciate the sense of humor of these operators!
-The water treatment licenses from testing (Distribution and Collection, waste water class licenses, drinking water class licenses, etc) can also be applied to other fields, such as certifying drinking water for restaurants, campgrounds, and other facilities. There are other water testing positions that require licensing, and it's possible to start your own business doing water testing.

Later!

Stages of Cleaning Waste Water and Introduction to Water Treatment Plants

Hello out there,
This is only my second blog for my internship experience, but I have a lot to say.
Here is what I have learned and experienced so far:
I have a much deeper understanding of the waste water treatment plant in Gunnison. Contrary to popular belief, the waste water treatment plant does not smell bad!

Here is a quick overview of the cleaning process:
There are four stages to cleaning water. This is standard for most waste water treatment plants, but there is some variation from plant to plant.
1. The first stage is pre-treatment, which is removing hard waste that does not include human waste such as paper towels, condoms, etc.
2. The second stage is introducing the bugs (micro-organisms) to the waste, providing an oxygen rich environment to allow them to digest the waste efficiently.
3. The third stage is clarifying the waste water, which can vary depending on the treatment plant. The purpose of the clarifier is to allow the solid waste and bugs to settle to the bottom (where they die), which is a slow process. There is a slow moving scraper, which keeps the water moving, and pushes oils and greases on the top layer of the water into a trap.
4. The fourth stage is cleaning the water by using UV lights. The lights do not kill the bugs, but destroys the ability for the bugs to reproduce. On a side note, the solid waste takes about 22 days to cycle through the treatment plant, and in that time recycles through the stages two and three over and over to make the water even more pure. The sludge removed from the water is then separated in a splitter, removing the water from the solid waste. The waste then is dehydrated even more, which is then turned into compost.

The treatment plants are essentially run by the bugs- they are doing all of the work to decompose the waste. The Front Range areas that were affected by flooding actually had to bring in live bugs in order to start the plants back up again since the bugs that were in the plants died off after eating all of the available food supply.
Go bugs!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Hello ENVS Blogging Universe,
My name Zach Campbell, and I am a senior at Western State University of Colorado majoring in Environmental Studies with a water emphasis. I grew up in Summit County, Colorado in the town of Montezuma where I first learned the importance of water. Our well water had high iron levels, which required cleaning methods to ensure the water was drinkable. Working the drinking water in my home sparked my interest in water. There was a river and waterfall that ran through the backyard, which I always enjoyed being around (picture below).

This semester I am interning with Gunnison Public Works, focusing on water treatment facilities. The purpose of the internship is to allow me to gain a deeper understanding of how important water is in our culture. I intend to learn about aspects of water treatment from establishing wells all the way through to water sanitation. I want to get a feel for the industry of waste water treatment, and meet new people in the industry. I also intend to study for and take the level D water licensing exam.

I started working with the Gunnison Wastewater Treatment plant, and have toured the facility. Dale Picard showed me testing procedures for the properties of water. He explained state mandates for levels (such as nitrogen, alkalinity, oxygen, and many others) in water released after treatment.

There is a lot to learn in this industry, and I look forward to the rest of my internship.

Monday, August 12, 2013


I thought for at least one of these entries I would discuss a topic that does not directly relate to water….Unfortunately there really is not a whole lot that doesn’t relate, but there are a few files that discuss mining impacts on water that I thought interesting to read.  Also, abandoned mines are scattered all over this valley, acting as pollution sources to our rivers, and therefore it is an important set of files to bring attention to.  Let’s face it, these mines make up a very important part of the history of the area, but we certainly known their safety standards were not up to par with having this many people live in the area.  This file discusses just some of the major mines that were pollution problem sources throughout the Valley.  This is of course also the location of the information regarding the famous Mt. Emmons or as it is commonly referred to “Red Lady”

Red Lady is not the file that I find the most interesting though. If you guide yourself to the file that contains information on the Standard Mine, this is where the interesting information is contained.  For those familiar with the term Superfund, this mine is one that was put on the list to be cleaned up using the Superfund.  The Superfund was established after the Love Canal incident took place in Niagara Falls, New York.  It was established as a way to clean up serious environmental threats, usually ones that can threaten human health as well.  Perhaps comparing the Love Canal incident to cleaning up the Standard Mine is a little extreme, but it is enough to make this one stick in my mind real well.  I have also taken frequent trips to this area for hiking and rock hounding so it was already very familiar to me. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013


The next file set that I found interesting was the files that pertained to the Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.  As a fisherman myself it was good for me to get to see the fish that are endangered in the Colorado River just in case I ever ran across them.  More importantly, it was good to see that they Recovery Program was so well organized and popular.  I had assumed this was only a sate-wide effort, however it is much more of an effort enforced by the entire river basin.

The important section to our Valley is the one that pertains to the Dallas and Dolores Creek endangered fish.  Earlier I had discussed that there was not a lot of public information present since our area is not very popular or populated. This is a prime example of some key information that may be difficult to find elsewhere.  Neither of these areas are heavily visited or studied, but since there is information available it opens the door for further study especially when utilized in an academic environment.  Enough talking, I will let you dive in and see what you can come up with. I am off to see some fish for myself….


Another File that I already mentioned but found to be extremely interesting and useful is the compilation of files titled Cloud Seeding. There are files for each year from before 2002 to 2007. Currently there still remain small efforts to have private cloud seeding projects in the Valley, but after reading through many of these files, I can see why the concept needs more development to continue in the Valley. 

A good portion of the files that make up this chunk are simple emails discussing cloud seeding activity in the area.  At first glimpse these seem meaningless and excessive because generally they are short and there is A LOT of them in each section. However after getting a chance to read through all these a pattern began to emerge that seemed a bit unsettling.  After each winter storm was seeded, often times there still would not be a drastic change in the amount of snowfall.  Once and a while they would be able to report a couple inches extra, but most of the time they would see no change or the storm would not be acceptable to seed for one reason or another. 

This was also an interesting topic because it is one that I had heard a lot about throughout my time spent in the classroom at Western.  In these folders you can also find very useful articles and designs for how these seeding projects took place.  Again a lot of the designs for the seeding devices looked a little outdated, for instance they use devices that release the silver iodide from the ground rather than current trends that use planes to deliver the dose.  However, it does give an interesting look into how cloud seeding has developed through the years.  Perhaps we can expect to see more new developments to increase the effectiveness of this process. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


On a rainy day like today, I can’t help but think about the amount of water that we have in the Valley.  With this being such a wet summer and winter, it is obviously doing wonders to the water supply that was destroyed by the previous two years.  Obviously the UGRWCD has kept pretty key information about the water supply in our area, but there is a slight disturbing trend to be seen in these files.  While there is currently enough water to satisfy most of the water rights in the valley, there is a water rights system in place for a reason.  UGRWCD and other conservancy districts have documents that they produce each year that measure the projected depletions for certain water rights.  These kind of documents are very apparent throughout the Water Supply category, which just goes to show real proof of the fact that no everyone gets water each year or for the entire year. 

The documents on water supply also have interesting information in the form of data sheets.  While these are very long and sometimes impossible to even understand, the summaries are where the real information lies.  In here we can see rain and snow summaries for each month depending on the year.  This section also shows that water rights system in action.  I have learned a lot about how the system works, but it is interesting to be able to read through these documents and see what it is we were talking about.  This also continues into the thousands of applications present in the website, but that is something that we will have to discuss in another topic.

Damn the Cement Creek Dam!


Blog Number 5

Now that we have cleared up any confusion on what the categories contain, the next step is to dive into some specific topics that interested me and that have the potential to be resources for my final paper.  While I am still a little fuzzy on what the overall theme of the paper will be, I am hoping that by reflecting on some of these interesting documents I will obtain a working outline for the final product or products.

The first interesting topic that struck me personally and was prevalent consistently throughout the project was the conflict of developing areas in the Valley.  While there are multiple files pertaining to development in the Valley, the particular event that struck me the most was the proposed dam that would have flooded Cement Creek.  The most interesting aspect of this was the amount of feedback that came in after the proposed plan had been released by the Bureau of Reclamation.  Not only were just people from Crested Butte writing in protest, but people from all over the country had comments about the proposed project.  Although my personal favorites come from locals.

This was not just an interesting thing to see a small community fighting back a federal organization like the Bureau of Reclamation, but it also provided a good comparison to other projects where this has occurred.  Many other water storage projects have gone through successful and had benefited the community in a way that is perhaps worth the sacrifice.  It takes a pristine area such as Cement Creek to really make people stand up and decide that loosing this area is not worth the risk. The most interesting think I saw from reading through these letters was that each argument was about the same.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Last Two Categories

I believe my original post stated that there were only four categories included in our website.  This information was false as there are most definitely five total categories that the files where broken down into.  The last two categories are titled Legislation and Other Conservancy Districts.  I chose these two categories for last because they are the most self explanatory categories that we have.  However this does not mean that they lack any significance as a good source of information about things and people affecting the Valley. 
The first one I will talk about is the category of Legislation.  Obviously this category is going to contain mostly legislation that pertains to water and mostly legislation that pertains to the state of Colorado.  Although, there still is a decent chunk of Federal Legislation that made its way into this category as well.  If you are having a desire to investigate the Water Rights system in action, this is the category to start.  It shows examples of all the laws that shape water use in Colorado and examples of the processes involved in protesting a water right, or applying for a water right (although this is something that is present in many categories throughout the site).  This category still remains somewhat unorganized so of you haven't checked out any of them, I encourage you to help me design this in a more organized fashion.
The next category is called Other Conservancy districts and it has information on other water conservancy districts around the state......This may seem very obvious, but the idea is to create an obvious starting point to help people navigate through the thousands of documents. In this sense, this category is one of the best organized of them all.  I discovered many new conservancy districts after going through the documents contained in this category, and the number of organizations was downright shocking.  If you happen to look through this category you my see the reasoning behind my previous statement that our state is "littered" with water conservancy districts. 

Below are the links in order of how they were discussed.  Please check them out.
http://www.uppergunnisonwaterdocs.com/?page_id=3717
http://www.uppergunnisonwaterdocs.com/?page_id=3721  

Next Two Categories

Sorry for the weekend delay in explaining those next two categories.  My weekend was busy doing volunteering for ORE and assisting with the Recycling Program.  The Next Two Categories I would like to discuss are the Water Projects category and the UGRWCD Organizational Documents category. 
The First of these is the category that contains all the information that the UGRWCD had pertaining to water projects.  This does not just mean projects in Gunnison, but any projects that came through the office.  While the majority of the information in this category does relate to water projects in the Valley, this does well to give better detail than I have seen from other resources describing the same water projects.  It also provides perspectives on these water projects from different conservancy districts around the state.  One example of the intense amount of information available for water projects is all the data on water in the Colorado River.  Since so many projects were done on this river, a lot of different projects have the same base information so at times this category gets a little repetitive.  However, don't be discouraged, there is plenty to discover here. 
The Next category I would like to discuss is the category titled "UGRWCD Organizational Documents.  For student purposes, this category probably contributes the least amount of useful information because a lot of it can only be comprehended by a professional in a water conservancy district.  Many of the files through me for a loop when trying to summarize them in one sentence because I really didn't know the purpose of the document.  Never the less, there are important documents still located within these files.  There are a lot of meeting minutes included here, as well as detailed information on Board Members and Board Committee that Date as far back as the Conservancy District itself.  Perhaps a valuable resource for anyone looking for a historical perspective on the Conservancy District as a subject. 

Below is the link to access the Water Projects Category:
http://www.uppergunnisonwaterdocs.com/?page_id=3718

This next link will direct you to the UGRWCD Organizational Documents Category:
http://www.uppergunnisonwaterdocs.com/?page_id=3720  

As always check them out and leave me feedback.   

Friday, August 2, 2013

End Of My Internship


I have learned so much with this internship its unbelievable. I have learned how to create events, make valuable contacts, cook new recipes, run an entire website, communication skills, and a whole lot more. This internship has been so valuable to me. I have gained so much and could not thank the great folks at ORE for this opportunity. There has been some transitions going on in the office and they offered me a part time job as Market Manager of Local Farms First. I have been running the market now for a few weeks and it is going great. I have learned so much and I am so proud to be the person to turn to when there is a problem with an order, or if a farmer has a question. I am so grateful for this internship because it got my foot in the door and now I am working for this amazing organization. There are also big plans to expand the market to Telluride and Aspen in the coming months. So this internship has been a wonderful experience for me and I could not be happier with where I am going in my future!

Omnivores Dilemma




I read this book for my internship reading. It was a good read that I learned a lot from. I also got some interesting new views and questions from it. The first section is about corn and how it is a mono-crop that is in everything from our cars to in our hamburgers! It seriously made me think twice about getting fast food every again!! The second part discussed organic food and the benefits of small farms vs. large scale organic farms. This section related to me because I work with a lot of small farms with LFF and I have made a lot of friends who are small farmers. It was interesting to see how the large scale organic farms  operate compared to the small scale. The third section left me with the biggest question. It was about how we have lost touch with food. It makes me wonder how we have come to this point of not even knowing where our food comes from or even caring! This book was great and really taught me a lot about food and how I view it.

The Future Of Food: Local, National and Global


The future of local food on a global level looks challenging, because it is. With the human population so high food insecurity is a problem. On a national level, there are still issues with how our food is raised and grown using harmful hormones and chemicals. This is bad for our future also. On a local level, I can see the great effects of local food through LFF. So I have concluded that although the future of food is a global and national problem for the future, that changing on the local level is the answer. I have seen the good effects on having a local food system. Maybe if we all try to work on the small scale, it could benefit the larger ones. Of course this will  take a lot of time and change. But I have taken the steps to change personally, and I have seriously benefitted from it. I believe this can be done to help our food insecurity as a planet. Start small, but dream big!

Non Profit Businesses


Non-Profits are great organizations. It is wonderful to learn about how they work. The idea of not having anyone wanting to gain anything but a better future is wonderful to see. One thing I have learned about working for a non profit is how important grants are and funding. They are they only way that non profits run smoothly. It is a different concept but it is one that will make your heart happy because only humanity is gaining from these types of businesses. One way ORE gets funding is through grants. They are also putting on a fundraiser in august that will be a big way to get money for new programs for ORE. This type of job allows you to be creative when it comes to getting money to help your programs. It is neat to see these processes happen and learn about different way that business can work.

Local Food Movement: Community Effects


I have gained a strong sense of community while working with LFF. Seeing community members who care about the importance of local food has inspired me to really take action and change my own eating habits. I love eating local food off the market each week and enjoy trying out new recipes. Seeing other people and customers on the market ordering new things from the market each week has made me try new stuff too! I have tried Garlic Scapes, Duck Eggs, Thai Basil and a lot of other things that I would have to chance to buy in the regular grocery store. I love how this internship has sparked a new passion in me for local food. It has really affected my life in a positive way and I am so grateful to have this wonderful opportunity! I love seeing this local food movement grow in our community! Each week on the market there are new customers and new items available, it like Christmas each Wednesday when it is pick up day! Seeing the community respond to the availability of local food is inspiring and makes it clear that with small changes, a more sustainable future is possible.

Farm Tour Bad News


Unfortunately the farm tour was canceled! After all of the planning that went in to it, there wasn’t enough people who wanted to go. The folks at the office have also been swamped with planning the annual fundraiser Sustainaball in August that the farm tour just wasn’t able to happen. It is unfortunate because it would have been a great time. We had set up to visit The Living Farm and Abundant Life Farm to get tours, then go to Delicious Orchards for lunch and to end the day at a winery. Even though this would have been a fabulous day of local food, I still learned a lot about event planning and how involved this process could be. There may be another farm tour in September, so keep your eyes open for advertisements!!

Farm Highlights


With LFF I have been refining my skills in creating important contacts with farmers. I have learned a lot from these wonderful people along the way! Ela Family Farm has a huge orchard and they are so popular that their applesauce sells in Whole Foods! The Birds and The Bees farm specialized in organic, natural Lamb that sells like hot cakes on the market each week! Holy Terror Farm is run by the person who created LFF and ORE! They have all organic produce and free range chicken, not to mention a large orchard on their beautiful farm! Rock Wall Gardens is run by our market facilitator Diana and sells seed starts, greens and herbs! Getting to know some of the farms has been a great experience that has created contacts for me that will be great for my future!

Farm Tour Planning


Planning the farm tour has a lot of ins and outs to make sure they are all taken care of. It is a fun and new process! One thing that has been really helpful is learning about all of the ways you can market and advertise an event. Posters, emails to customers, signs at the farmers markets and around town are just a few thing that can be done to advertise for events. FaceBook is a great way to get the word out too by creating events and inviting your friends. There are other logistics like transportation and lunch that all have to be taken care of. Contacting the farms to schedule a tour and estimating how many people will attend for lunch boxes to be made and transportation to be set up are all aspects that are required to think about. It is a fun and tedious process but is worth it for people to see where their food comes from!! I have had a great time learning how to set up events with ORE and LFF. I have gained some valuable knowledge that will be beneficial to my future as well!!

Local Recipes


Local recipes are a blast to try out! While gathering information about the cookbook I am writing for LFF, I have had an amazing time contacting the farmers and hearing their stories. Another awesome aspect of this is learning how to use produce in ways I never thought I would. I have tried out a recipe for zucchini cookies!!  They are so unique and different not to mention delicious. I have also tried out a recipe for Garlic Scape Hummus, it was tangy and wonderfully tingly on my taste buds. I have also been talking to Ela Family Farms who has a signature apple sauce recipe that sells in WholeFoods! These are just some examples of the wonderful recipes I have tried out and the great people I have been talking to. Using local food to create recipes is a unique and new thing for me. I love to cook but never thought to think outside the box! There will be a new section on the LFF website in the coming months about all of the recipes I have found. This will help our customers order more produce and give them new fresh ideas on how to use the signature items of the farm!!

Gunnison Farmers Market VS. LFF Online Market


This summer I am also an intern with the Gunnison Farmers Market. I want to use this blog post to describe the differences between the farmers market and the LFF online farmers market. There is the obvious difference of setting up and taking down the market. With tents and tables, it is a tiring job. There is a similarity of first come first served. With the Gunnison market and the online market, produce runs out. If you get there early enough, you will get your desired produce, if you come later, you probably have missed out on some cool items. Another similarity is the local products. All of the produce from both markets comes from the localities of Colorado, while LFF is more local, but the Gunnison market features stuff from all over Colorado! This summer has been a blast working for both of these markets! I have learned a lot of new things about how businesses work and all of the complexities of running the operations smoothly. They both involve a lot of helping hands to make them successful. The atmosphere of the outdoor Gunnison market is fun and exciting, while the LFF market is social only on pick up days. But both have their pros and cons. I enjoy working for both organizations and helping them run because they offer local food to our community. They are some of the main driving forces of the local  food movement!!
The Challenge of making this online database user-friendly is the biggest challenge of all considering the mass amount of information that the database contains. Our first move in designing a system that is easier to navigate was to establish five major categories.  These are UGRWCD Organizational Documents, Water Projects, Legislation, Other Conservancy Districts, and Research & Development.  I feel that it would benefit all to have a few post explaining these categories and the types of documents that could be found in each category.  After dealing with all these documents in many forms myself, I can now find it to be the easiest to navigate them on our website.  That being said it is important to get a first hand explanation from someone who designed the system to give the user a place to start (believe me you can get lost quick).
To start, I would like to summarize the Research & Development category. This category contains all the documents that pertain to scientific studies/findings and non-water project information, such as climate change or soil conditions.  Speaking from a students perspective this category would be the most helpful in finding new information about things that are already known are present in the Gunnison Valley.  For instance I am sure that everyone is familiar with the presence of a cloud seeding project in the Valley, but how would one go about finding detailed information on the subject.  The cloud seeding folder on the Research & Development page provides everything from infrastructure design, to emails discussing specific cloud seeding events.  Some of which many people could have been present for and didn't even know it. The last important point to make about this category is that it includes a lot of information not specific to Colorado.  A lot of the studies and experiments that are available on this page took place in the Colorado River Basin Region, which includes almost the entire Western United States.  This means that this category also provides interesting information on how other states use/abuse their delegated water.  One state that has always seemed to slip through the cracks as far as water planning goes is Wyoming. It was interesting to me to read through the Wyoming Water Planning file, which provided a lot of good information on the small water commissions they have.  This is quite the change from our state, where water conservancy districts are as rampant as Starbucks....

Here is the Link to the Research and Development page. Check it out if you have time and as always please  give me feedback on anything you would like. 
http://www.uppergunnisonwaterdocs.com/?page_id=3719

I guess the first thing to do would be to discuss the ins and outs of the project that is finally complete at this time.  The UGRWCD decided somewhere around 2010 that they wanted to start going digital with all their document, which was a great concept, however it left one problem; a room full of file cabinets that were not so digital.  This was the birth of the project that took over a year to complete and countless people hours of work.  All 15,000+ documents had to be organized, filtered through, scanned, uploaded, and posted to the UGRWCD’s water documents library.  The idea with the library is that it will not only preserve some of the older documents that the UGRWCD had stashed away, but it will also provide a good public resource for water issues in the Valley.  Since our town is very small, sometimes it can be difficult trying to find specific information about the area, and just through my  experience with this database, it has opened my eyes to a lot of information I never knew was out there. 

                By going through all these documents, I have certainly learned a lot more than I thought I would just doing “mindless” scanning and uploading.  Having to upload these documents allowed me to read through them and discover just a little more about the area than meets the eye.  Through this blog I hope to report to you just a few of the interesting things I found throughout my work on the project.  A lot of them are things that I have heard about in classes at Western, and it just made it even more intriguing to see it in the real world.  I would also encourage everyone to visit the website and give me a little feedback on what you think.  http://www.uppergunnisonwaterdocs.com/

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Artists are slowly crawling out of the woods to regain a sense of time and space. If they are lucky they may get to a computer to blogg about their time in the bush. The last residency CAR held was a backpacking trip through the John Muir Wilderness.

Creative Writer, tory tepp writes about his John Muir Wilderness awakening. Blogging about it was fueled by a continuous stream of "alternating coffee and IPAs." 

 Hey 8-01-2013 is IPA Day so check his peice today!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Energy Efficiency With ORE and LFF


Because of climate change and the growing concern of our lessening resources of oil and gas, it is more important now than ever that we become more sustainable. There are a lot of ways to be more sustainable. You can start simple, by eating more local foods that require much less gas emissions to get to our table. You can make small changes around your home like changing your light bulbs and using power strips for your plug in devices to help with phantom energy issues. You can go a little bit bigger and get green energy appliances to save you money on washing your dishes or doing a load of laundry. Or you can go big and change your insulation in your house to save you big bucks on your energy bills. Replacing windows and installing solar panels will also save you money in the long run and help you be more sustainable. ORE and LFF are two resources that the Gunnison valley has to be more sustainable. These two projects can green your home and allow your food to be more local. Small changes can really make a difference! Go Green Today!

What ORE does!


The office of resource efficiency is a great organization that helps homes and businesses become more green! They offer rebates from Energy Smart that can lower your utility bill. They start off by assessing your home energy and seeing where cracks can be filled by green initiatives. Then they contract out green energy businesses that will come in and replace things like insulation and windows, among other things. They have been doing this for a while now and the Energy Smart grant is expiring this august. Because of this they have been able to offer up to 1000 dollar rebate to save you money on your home and install energy efficient appliances and home improvements.

Since the grant is ending, all of their left over funding has been applied to saving the community money offering this great rebate. Their popularity is growing in the surrounding counties and their customer base has grown a lot because of all of the work they have done. The employees and contractors of ORE have been working hard to make our valley and surrounding communities greener and more sustainable!

This is a great field of work because as climate change grows, it is more important than ever that we become more sustainable in any way we can! Energy Smart has helped out our community so much through ORE! Greening your home can be easy and save you money in the long run! It is worth it to have a home assessment from ORE!!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Busy Scientists

Grizelle Gonzalez
photo credit: U.S. Forest Service
After numerous sessions of phone/email tag I finally set up an interview with Forest Services Dr. Grizelle Gonzalez who is the Acting Project Leader for the International Institute of Tropical Forestry. I'm enthralled to interview Dr. Gonzalez, and even more intrigued to hear what she has to say about her involvement with Colorado Art Ranch and the El Toro Wilderness Residency that was put on by CAR in March.  Her interests include soils, decay, nutrient cycling, and soil organisms. Dr. Gonzalez recently conducted canopy trimming experiment in El Yunhque National Forest. The experiment was designed to separated the two main effects of hurricanes-canopy removal and deposition of litter to the forest floor and to investigate the serrate abiotic and biotic consequences of hurricane type damage and monitor recovery processes.  After the study they found that by opening the canopy  soil moisture, and light levels increases by litter moisture decreased.  They found that the plots with the most  canopy disturbance and debris acquired, had the lowest invertebrate diversity and biomass. Gonzalez and long term ecologists found that hurricane disturbances have a long lasting effect on litter communities and may, delay detrital processing, depending on the intensity of canopy damage and rate of regrowth.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Upcoming Sustainaball Event Planning


ORE is putting on the first annual Sustainaball!! This is a fundraiser for the non-profit and will be a silent and live auction with a murder mystery dinner theme! This night will be full of fun as they auction off silent auction items from local businesses who have generously donated their time and money to make ORE the organization it is today. The live auction will have items like luxurious vacations to Costa Rica with air fare included, a week’s stay in a tree house community in Costa Rica and in a local one up Elk Basin. There is also a guided historical day tour of Gunnison county from our favorite history professor Duane L. Vandenbusche. Other items that will be auctioned off are golf trips on Dos Rios and stays in the only B&B in Gunnison, a guided mountain bike ride with a renound rider from the valley, Yoga on top of Painter Boy lift and much more! This night will be full of awesome costumes and a live performance of a skit of the murder mystery. This will be held on August 9th at CBMR starting at 6PM. All proceeds from ticket sales and auctions go to the non-profit ORE for funding on current and future projects and programs!

Helping and watching the process it takes to put on a major fundraiser like this has taught me a lot! There is a lot of input with the board of directors and the major members of the community who invest their time to ORE to make it an awesome sustainable organization. I have learned all of the ins and outs of putting on such a big event. All of the helping hands make a difference and with all of the hard work of the board of directors, us interns and the great people who run Ore, this event will be such a success!!

Becoming a Locavore!


I became a locavore because I realized it was affordable and a change for the better of the community and nature. In college we would always learn about the importance of local agriculture but I thought the outlets available were too expensive for a college student to afford. When I started this internship, I realized I could be a locavore and still have money. In fact I have saved money. Eating local can be as inexpensive as you need it to be with LFF. You don’t have to spend the $40+ dollars per week on a box of random farm produce like a community supported agriculture (CSA) box does. You can customize your order and only buy things you know you will eat and be able to cook. I became a locavore because of LFF! This internship has really sparked my passion and has allowed me to live a much more sustainable life! I started composting in my backyard, I eat local meals daily and I have reaped the benefits from doing so. As a college student, you don’t think it is something that you can necessarily do, be a locavore, compost, be more sustainable, but as a former college student, I am here to tell you that you can afford it and it is a much better way of living. Eating local is fun and becoming more sustainable in my lifestyle has been an eye opening experience. Ordering through LFF has brightened my week because  I get fresh, organic, local produce that make my meals fun!

What is a locavore?


A locavore is a way of living a sustainable life. Being a locavore is eating only or mostly local foods that come from about a 200 mile radius of where you live. This cuts down a lot of the pollution that regular food produces. Locavores eat with the seasons and don’t have bananas in December!! This way of living is a healthy life choice. Eating foods that are natural and native to your area allows them to have more natural nutrients than genetically modified foods (GMO) foods, this leaves your produce more healthy. Being a locavore can be a challenge especially when you live in a place like Gunnison. The growing season is only 60 days here and that leaves much of the year to rely on canned preserves and potatoes. If one really wants to become a locavore though, there are many ways you can find to be creative!

Eating organic is an important aspect to this idea. It allows you to have more nutritious foods it is a better way to live for the goal of sustainability. This is because there are no chemicals, GMOs, hormones, or pesticides in your food that pollute the environment. Eating organic local foods is extremely important and I believe that this way of life will become more main stream in the future. With the way most Americans eat now, processed foods and veggies and fruits loaded with artificial everything, I think its clear that a change needs to be made. Eating local is so important. I have changed my ways and now order off of LFF each week and buy at the farmers market. It gives me a sense of place to know where my food came from and who grew it! This is a lifestyle change that is worth it, especially if you love the environment and want to preserve it for future generations. Eat local!

Friday, July 12, 2013

TCB the details of taking care of business

Meetings--easily the most boring blog to wirte about but I noticed in all these board meetings that I have been going to that they keep time and notes, so it is a significant detail to understand. According to the Alaska Wilderness League’s handbook called Mobilizing the Grassroots, meeting space, scribing, and timekeeping are important to handling business.  In the handbook they warn that an ineffective environment can cause ineffective business.
The room shape and size is important because if the meeting space too small “it forces people to sit too closely, therefore inhibiting discussing (and perhaps causing tension and conflict)”. Large groups of 10-20 people should meet in a room of at least 20X30 feet and it should be set up in “U” shape for maximum contact with one another. This room should also have movable chairs and room to meet in small groups. Meeting spaces require whiteboard space so decorating walls are good but should still leave room for presentations.
Scribing/note taking is important because so much is said during a meeting that keeping track is important so that you do not forget thoughts and suggestions. The scribe is there to record key ideas “using participants own words.”
Lastly, there is always time keeping. This was the most informative of information from this handbook because I was wondering what the purpose of timekeeping was. “A good meeting begins and ends on time and accomplishes what was planned.” The agenda is usually past out previous to meetings to inform the participants what will be discussed and how long it will be discussed. As we all know people can get off track easily. At the end of every board meeting I have been to, the usually brainstorm on what will be discussed next, what goals should be accomplished by the next meeting, and who will be attending the meeting.

Noxious


Noxious: adjective, to be harmful, poisonous, or very unpleasant. Noxious weeds are something that we always look for when monitoring land. The reason for this is because noxious weeds can cause permanent or very harmful damage to a plant community. Typically many noxious weeds are also invasive which makes them so harmful to communities. Today I pulled Oxeye Daisy for an hour. It’s spread was massive and I noticed that it was very competitive, and in some areas the most dominant plant. Many noxious weeds are “biennial”, this doesn't mean that all weeds are biennial, parsley for example is biennial. Biennial means that it takes two years for the plant to complete its life cycle. The first year the plant is just root, stem, and leaves. The second year the plant flowers and seeds before it finally dies. It’s very important to pull these plants even though they have a short life cycle they can do serious spreading during the second year of its life. Oxeye Daisy’s are not biennials but Yellow Toadflax and Houndstongue are and they are prevalent in the Gunnison Basin. Oxeye Daisys are hard to eliminate because they can regenerate from rhizome fragments (pieces of root) and also spread by seed. So learn and pull your noxious weeds or they become obnoxious.

Agricultural Conservation Easements


Agricultural conservation easements are extremely important for the future of farmers and ranchers in lue of  them becoming an obsolete professions.  One major reason for these professions becoming obsolete is the price of land. In some scenarios a land trust will purchase a piece of land then start an easement on it and sell it to a farmer and rancher for a cheaper price. One other ways to keep ag land in production by land trusts are by making special programs for young and beginning producers that help them acquire Ag loans and provide training programs in land management. This can provide a challenge for the farmer because like all easements their are specifications for land use and development. However, according to Saving Land a magazine by the Land Trust Alliance these challenges are being addressed among Land Trusts individually.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Exploring New Artist for Artposia

Adrien Segal: An Artist With Ecological Expression

By:Ryan Mudgett
Photo credit to ~ adrien segal art.design.data.sculpture © 2013 
Mirroring the scientific process artist Adrien Segal expresses brilliant works of art that display tales of places where humans and nature overlap. Her imagination and sculpting skills serve as a platform to narrate the invisible by telling a story of place that is intuitive, and serves as a natural history lesson for the viewer. Segal’s work is truly inspired by data visualization, natural phenomena, and long term scientific research.  Her creative form of sculpture accurately represents trends in water use, alluvial flow, tidal datum, and other water related topics . Striving to use her art as a universal form of communication she is successful in transforming information that reveals trends or patterns in history by depicting them as three dimensional forms(Segal, 2013).

After examining her work I begin to notice a slight shift in my perspective of the natural world and how it painstakingly introduced to the masses. By taking decades of  scientific data and expressing the numbers and trends in her sculptures, Segal transforms the complexities of science into a form that many can understand.  Her work not only steers clear from bland graphs and charts but also reminds me of an Aldo Leopold statement that can be found in his Land Ethic:

  “The ordinary citizen today assumes that science knows what makes the community clock tick; the scientist is equally sure that he does not. He knows that the biotic mechanism is so complex that its workings may never fully be understood.” Aldo Leopold

Segal’s art work expresses a firm push of creativity that begins to represent the complexity of certain biotic mechanisms and how they respond to anthropocentric world.  It is up to the curious individual to view her work with  desire to learn more about her thought process and message. In respect to Leopold we can only act ethically to something we can see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in, and Segal does just that with her art work(Leopold, 1970).

Here is a snippet of Adrien Segal's Art.  I was taken back by her piece "Snow Water Equivalent Cabinet".

Check it out, she rocks!   > > > http://www.adriensegal.com/#!snow-water-equivalent-cabine/ct3d





Literature Cited
Leopold, A., & Schwartz, C. W. (1970). A Sand County almanac: with essays on conservation from Round River. New York: Ballantine Books.
Segal, Adrien (2013) “Adrien Segal: Artist Statement” http://www.adriensegal.com/#!statement/cihc accessed July,2013 adrien segal art.design.data.sculpture © 2013

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Artist Elizabeth Robles Perspective on El Toro Residency

An Interview with Elizabeth Robles 
Experiences from the El Toro Wilderness Residency. March 1-30, 2013 
By Ryan Mudgett

      

 Why were you interested in participating at the El Toro Wilderness residency?

E.R.-I was initially interested because I have been investigating sources of organic and mineral pigments in Puerto Rico, its extraction and use in my sculptures. Also because the process and its documentation are central in my work, and this would be an opportunity to make known that aspect of my work.
But undoubtedly, entering the density of the El Toro Wilderness ecosystems is something that one never knows what the outcome will be.

¿Por qué te interesó participar en la residencia de El Toro Wilderness?

De primera intención me interesó porque ya venía investigando fuentes de pigmento orgánico y mineral en Puerto Rico, su extracción y su uso en mis esculturas.  También porque el proceso y su documentación es parte central en mi trabajo, y ésta sería una oportunidad para dar a conocer este aspecto de mi obra.
Pero, sin duda, entrar a la densidad de los ecosistemas de El Toro Wilderness es algo de lo que una nunca sabe cómo saldrá.

 Why is the intersection of Art and Science so important to you and your work?

E.R.-The physical and chemical reactions of beeswax and pigment - its materiality-give my sculptures not only mass, color and texture, but also generate in them a latent state of change.  The ability to re-melt the wax and restart the process is part of the force or potential energy in them, and part of their fragility.  Its sensitivity to high temperatures, that transformational component of its substance, the constant change in the process, from solid/tempered to liquid/boiling and vice versa is key in my sculptures.  Hence processes, observation, documentation - the same as for the scientist-are a structural part of my sculptural work.

¿Por qué la intersección entre arte y ciencia es tan importante para ti y tu trabajo?

Las cualidades físicas y las reacciones químicas de la cera de abeja y los pigmentos — su materialidad— dan a mis esculturas no sólo masa, color en trasparencia y textura, sino que generan en ellas un estado siempre latente de cambio.  La posibilidad de volver a derretir la cera y reiniciar el proceso es parte de la fuerza o energía potencial en ellas, y parte de su fragilidad. Su sensibilidad a las altas temperaturas, ese componente de transformación de su materia, el paso constante, durante el proceso, de lo sólido/atemperado a lo líquido/caliente y viceversa es clave en mis esculturas. De ahí que el proceso, la observación y la documentación —de igual forma que para el científico— son parte estructural de mi trabajo escultórico.

 What are some of your reactions to the El Toro Wilderness? Any particular memories or first thoughts?

E.R.-The first thing we saw as a group was an aerial view map of El Toro Wilderness with Samuel Moya, that immenseness and richness will forever tempt me in my memory. At the same time, I’m still impressed by the rigorous constancy demanded by scientific research; entering the forest to measure the water or pick up fallen leaves, and other tasks in scientific research are governed by anything but an easy structure, it requires relentless concentration and focus, a real commitment.  That determination in work is also the artist's task.  Somehow, as I experienced it, the woods moved with me, we gradually opened and were immersed into each other, without knowing how.

¿Qué reacciones tienes a El Toro Wilderness? ¿Tienes alguna memoria en particular?

Lo primero que vivimos como grupo junto a Samuel Moya fue un mapa con vistas aéreas de El Toro Wilderness, esa magnitud y riqueza seguirá por siempre tentándome en mi memoria.  A su vez, todavía hoy me impresiona la consistencia rigurosa que demanda la investigación científica; entrar al bosque para medir el agua o recoger hojarasca, así como otras tareas son regidas por una estructura nada fácil, que requiere implacable concentración y enfoque, toda una entrega. Esa determinación de trabajo es también la tarea del artista. De alguna forma, para mí el bosque se movía conmigo, nos abríamos al paso y quedamos sumergidos el uno en el otro, sin saber cómo.
 
What was the highlight of the month?

E.R.-The month was full of highlights, in my case; each to and fro to the encounters with nature (ecosystems) allowed me to ponder on the complex political relationship of Puerto Ricans with our land. That was a constant spark.

¿Cuál fue el momento más distintivo durante el mes?

El mes estuvo lleno de momentos culminantes; en mi caso particular, cada ida y regreso a los encuentros con la naturaleza (ecosistemas) me permitió una reflexión sobre la compleja relación política de los puertorriqueños con la tierra propia.  Ésa fue un chispa constante.

Did you have any moments of enlightenment or realization during your time in El Toro?

E.R.-Our first outing was to the Forest of the Clouds; today I remember it as an introduction, as a warming up cue of things to come. Once we got to the top of the mountain, all of us standing on the on the stone were enveloped in a great silence.  From there I went to the mangrove...
                                                                                                     
¿Tuviste algún momento de iluminación o realización durante tu visita al Toro?

Nuestra primera salida fue al Bosque de las Nubes; hoy la recuerdo como una iniciación, como un calentamiento en clave de lo que vendría. Una vez llegamos a lo más alto de la montaña, todos sobre la piedra nos envolvimos en un gran silencio.  De ahí fui al mangle…

As a scientist do you feel like you influenced the artist? Or as an artist did you feel like you influenced the scientist you worked with? In what ways?

E.R.-I feel that my experience is more one of looking at each other in mutual encounter and acknowledgement.

¿Sientes que tú, como artista, has influenciado a algún científico?

Siento que mi experiencia más bien es una de mirarnos en reconocimiento  y encuentro mutuo. 

What was the most absurd situation you experienced at the El Toro Wilderness?

E.R.-When I sank into the ecosystem of the Pterocarpus officinalis (Palo de Pollo) in Humacao, and did not understand why it did not happen to María and Humberto.

¿Cuál fue la situación más absurda durante tu experiencia en El Toro?

Cuando me hundía en el ecosistema de Pterocarpus officinalis (Palo de Pollo) en Humacao y no entendía por qué no le ocurría a María y a Humberto.

What do you believe to be the most beneficial outcome of the experience?

E.R.-On the one hand, this experience has made it possible to establish supportive links between artists, scientists and technicians, so that my sculpture has been a collaboration, a joint work. So I have to give thanks to María Rivera, Humberto Robles, Grizelle González, William Gould, Olga Ramos, Dr. Ariel Lugo and Helen Nunci, photographers John Betancourt and Wilbert Rivera, among many others.  On the other hand, interaction with scientists has prompted new insights into the possibilities of transformation of matter, I am identifying other angles to investigate in depth, new hypotheses to explore; thus it is not limited to the creation of a sculpture, but it passes into my praxis, my life as an artist.

At the same time, it opened the possibility of the experience of sharing with the other artists; especially the dynamic and interesting dialogue and encounter at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico was another important phase of this project.  That opportunity was very revealing regarding distinctions, tensions or encounters between scientific and artistic thought.

¿Qué consideras es el resultado más beneficioso de tu experiencia?

Por un lado, la experiencia ha permitido establecer enlaces de apoyo entre artistas, científicos y técnicos, de modo que mi escultura ha sido una colaboración, un trabajo en conjunto.  Por lo que tengo que dar gracias a María Rivera, Humberto Robles, Grizelle González, William Gould, Olga Ramos, al Dr. Ariel Lugo y a Helen, a los fotógrafos John Betancourt y a Wilberto Rivera, entre muchos otros.  Por otro lado, la interacción con los científicos ha impulsado nuevas perspectivas en las posibilidades de transformación de la materia, voy identificando otros aspectos a investigar a profundidad, nuevas hipótesis a explorar; de modo que no se limita a la realización de una escultura, sino que pasa a mi práctica de vida como artista. 

A su vez, la posibilidad que abrió la experiencia de compartir con los otros artistas; especialmente lo dinámico e interesante del diálogo y encuentro en el Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico fue otra dimensión importante en este proyecto. Esa oportunidad fue muy reveladora respecto a distinciones, tensiones o encuentros entre el pensamiento científico y el artístico. 

Any other thoughts or suggestions for Colorado Art Ranch?

E.R.-I want to acknowledge the importance and significance of this initiative of the Colorado Art Ranch, particularly Grant Pound’s commitment with the study of the inseparable union of art and science, particularly his receptivity to the proposal of Dr. Grizelle González, in her irreplaceable request to include Puerto Rican artists in the project.  I acknowledge the extensive and crucial collaboration of Forestry Institute of el Yunque, P.R.  To have had access to ecosystems with ongoing scientific research along with several of its scientists, like Dr. Lugo and Dr. González, was fundamental to the success of this experience. This project had many dimensions, among them is making contemporary Puertorrican artists visible at the international level.

¿Tienes algún otro comentario o sugerencia para el Colorado Art Ranch?

Quiero reconocer la importancia y trascendencia de esta iniciativa del Colorado Art Ranch, particularmente al  Grant Pound por su compromiso con el estudio de la unión inseparable del arte y la ciencia; muy especialmente su apertura ante la propuesta de la Dra. Grizelle González, en su solicitud imprescindible de incluir a artistas puertorriqueños en el proyecto.  Reconozco la amplia y crucial colaboración  del Instituto de Dasonomía del Yunque, P.R.  Poder tener acceso a los ecosistemas en investigación por sus científicos, junto varios de sus investigadores, como el Dr. Lugo y la Dra. González, fue clave para el éxito de esta experiencia.   Este proyecto tiene muchas dimensiones, entre ellas permite visibilidad a la gestión de artistas puertorriqueños contemporáneos en el plano internacional. 

LFF as a Non Profit!


I am so excited about this internship this summer with LFF. I was always interested in local food in school, but now that I work for a non profit providing local food to the valley, my passion has ignited! It has been such a great experience to see how a local food system can work and be successful. I think for the future it is a great new norm and that it is really going to become an important aspect of peoples lives all around the country and the globe. I think that LFF is a wonderful organization because it allows the farmers to set their own price for the market and it pays directly to them. There is no middle man in this system so the farmers are benefiting 100% along with the members, who are receiving the healthy local organic food each week from the hard working farmers. I feel like I am learning so much about local food and the importance of farms in this internship and I am really lucky to be front and center for all of it. LFF is a great non profit and is in a stage of growth. Each week there are more and more orders. It is great to see such a nice minded organization thrive. It proves that local food is important now and in the future.