Solution specific articles for Water & Environmental Resources.

“Mountain Rain or Snow” Seeks Citizen Scientists and Winter Storm Reports

During the winter, a few degrees can make all the difference between digging your car out of a
snowbank and rushing rivers overtopping their banks. Why? Winter storms at near-freezing
temperatures have notoriously fickle precipitation, with mixes of rain and snow. While the air
temperature difference between the two may be slight, the real-world consequences can be
huge.

What’s more, the computer models we use to predict weather and streamflow often struggle to
predict whether rain or snow will fall when temperatures are right around 32°F. Satellites don’t
do much better. What this means is that scientists need your help!

With NASA funding, a team from Lynker, the Desert Research Institute, and the University of
Nevada, Reno are launching a citizen science project where volunteers like you can submit
observations of rain, snow, and mixed precipitation via your smartphone, laptop, desktop, tablet,
or any other device with a browser. We call it Mountain Rain or Snow and you can report from
your backcountry adventures, winter drives (as long as you’re the passenger!), and even the
comfort of your own home. Every observation is valuable!

As we grow the community of Mountain Rain or Snow volunteers, we will be better able to
analyze patterns of rain and snow to improve satellite monitoring and model predictions. This
info can then bring about better weather forecasts, more detailed knowledge of skiing
conditions, improved avalanche risk assessments, and more robust understanding of the water
stored in mountain snowpacks.

This winter we’re focusing our efforts on the following mountain regions. If you’re in one of these
areas, text the region-specific keyword to the number provided. You’ll then get a link to the
Mountain Rain or Snow web app and you’ll receive notifications of incoming winter storms in
your area. You can opt out at any time.

The Appalachians and Adirondacks of New England and New York
○ Text NorEaster to 855-909-0798
The Cascades, Coast Range, and Klamath Mountains of Oregon
○ Text OregonRainOrSnow to 855-909-0798
The Sierra Nevada of California and Nevada
○ Text WINTER to 855-909-0798
The Rocky Mountains of Colorado
○ Text CORainSnow to 855-909-0798

If you don’t happen to find yourself in one of the above areas, don’t fret! We welcome
observations from wherever you are. Anyone can submit an observation at any time via
https://rainorsnow.app/ and you can check out our website for more information. For Mountain
Rain or Snow questions, you can contact the project lead, Dr. Keith Jennings, at
rainorsnow@lynker.com.

Lynker delivers innovative solutions to support global environmental sustainability and
economic prosperity as a trusted partner to governments, communities, research institutions,
and industry. We are passionate about what we do and the high value we provide to water
resources management, hydrologic science, and conservation across the US and beyond. For
more information, please visit https://www.lynker.com/.

The Desert Research Institute (DRI) is a recognized world leader in basic and applied
environmental research. Committed to scientific excellence and integrity, DRI faculty, students
who work alongside them, and staff have developed scientific knowledge and innovative
technologies in research projects around the globe. Since 1959, DRI’s research has advanced
scientific knowledge on topics ranging from humans’ impact on the environment to the
environment’s impact on humans. DRI’s impactful science and inspiring solutions support
Nevada’s diverse economy, provide science-based educational opportunities, and inform
policymakers, business leaders, and community members. With campuses in Las Vegas and
Reno, DRI serves as the non-profit research arm of the Nevada System of Higher Education.
For more information, please visit www.dri.edu.

The University of Nevada, Reno is a public research university that is committed to the
promise of a future powered by knowledge. Nevada’s land-grant university founded in 1874, the
University serves 21,000 students. The University is a comprehensive, doctoral university,
classified as an R1 institution with very high research activity by the Carnegie Classification of
Institutions of Higher Education. Additionally, it has attained the prestigious “Carnegie Engaged”
classification, reflecting its student and institutional impact on civic engagement and service,
fostered by extensive community and statewide collaborations. More than $800 million in
advanced labs, residence halls and facilities has been invested on campus since 2009. It is
home to the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine and Wolf Pack Athletics, maintains
a statewide outreach mission and presence through programs such as the University of
Nevada, Reno Extension, Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, Small Business Development
Center, Nevada Seismological Laboratory, and is part of the Nevada System of Higher
Education. Through a commitment to world-improving research, student success and outreach
benefiting the communities and businesses of Nevada, the University has impact across the
state and around the world. For more information, visit www.unr.edu.

Media Contacts

Kathy O’Day
VP Marketing,
Communications & Business
Identification
Lynker
703-244-4892
koday@lynker.com

Kelsey Fitzgerald
Science Writer – DRI
Reno, NV 89512
775-741-0496
Kelsey.fitzgerald@dri.edu

Mike Wolterbeek
Communications Officer
University of Nevada,
Reno/108
Reno, NV 89557
775-784-4547
mwolterbeek@unr.edu

Lynker Partnership Tracks Wetland & Beaver Pond Changes Using Cutting Edge Technology

Lynker Technologies, in collaboration with Lynker Analytics and the Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP) at Colorado State University, have been commissioned to identify and map changes in vegetated wetlands and beaver ponds throughout the Colorado River Basin over the past decade. The project is sponsored by the Walton Family Foundation’s Environment Program, which works to protect and support a climate-resilient and healthy Colorado River Basin where nature and communities thrive together.

Freshwater wetlands have been rated as the world’s most valuable land-based ecosystem. They soak up floodwaters, alleviate droughts, reduce erosion, sequester carbon and provide habitat for fish, wildlife and plants. By creating dams that trap sediment and slow water flow, beavers reliably and economically maintain wetlands in North America. By one estimate, as much as one meter of sediment per year is caught behind beaver dams, and some sites can be occupied for up to fifty years.

Figure 1. Beaver dam and pond in the headwaters of the Colorado River basin. Photo: Sarah Marshall, CNHP

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) tracks the status and trends of wetlands across the United States. The National Wetlands Inventory (NWI), maintained by USFWS, is a nation-wide map of wetlands that has been created over several decades by multiple different mapping partners. The dataset is incredibly valuable, but does not track changes over time and the age of the data is variable across the West.

This is the first project of its kind, wherein the research team will use state-of-the-art remote sensing and machine learning techniques to map the extent of wetlands as well as the presence of beaver ponds and their changes over time. The mapping and analysis will be carried out using high resolution 4-band aerial photography from the National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) and LiDAR acquired by the government between 2006 and 2021.

Deep learning algorithms will be developed to identify and classify wetland areas and detect beaver ponds from the data available over multiple time periods throughout the basin. “Deep learning is a is a subset of machine learning that uses artificial neural networks to learn complex and intricate patterns in large data sets” says Matt Lythe, Managing Director of Lynker Analytics.  “We will use supervised learning to detect and classify beaver ponds and wetlands within the river basin with multiple machine learning models developed to account for landscape differences across the river basin” he goes on to say.

CNHP’s team of wetland ecologists will provide direct human-model training using local knowledge of these complexes and conduct a field survey in several areas to ground truth the system and measure accuracy.  “Beaver ponds have a characteristic morphology and signature in multi-spectral imagery which lends itself to supervised learning” adds Dr. Sarah Marshall, Ecohydrologist at CNHP.

Figure 2. Beaver ponds identified for training data using NAIP imagery

Scheduled for completion in May 2022, this project aims to produce an evidence-based analysis of wetland coverage and beaver activity over the past decade and enable monitoring to be carried out long term as imagery and LiDAR data are acquired.

The work will give the Walton Family Foundation Environment Program, scientists, and policy officials a more detailed understanding of wetland extent across the basin and enable further investigation of changes in the environment due to climate and human impacts over time.

Lynker Donates Consulting Support to Rural Uganda

Lynker’s water resources staff donated consulting support to Kanaama Interactive Community Support (KICS), a nonprofit seeking to expand access to safe water to a rural Ugandan sub-county. Lynker scientists collected and mapped current water access and climatological data, worked with KICS staff to obtain water quality samples and analyzed economically viable technical solutions. The work culminated in an ArcGIS StoryMap, a visual narrative that walks through existing water sources, community perspectives, solutions, and recommendations.  Click here for more information https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/4ec32b8df6bc427ebadc5c3c383f5f2e

Grant Award Win from NASA’s Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences Program!

Lynker, along with collaborators from the Desert Research Institute (DRI) and the University of Nevada, Reno, was recently awarded a grant from NASA’s Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences program to study the shift from snow to rain in the western United States. The change to greater amounts of rain, a key impact of climate warming, represents an important scientific challenge because rain and snow are notoriously difficult to monitor and model at air temperatures near freezing. To remedy this shortcoming the Lynker team will engage a network of citizen scientists to report rainfall and snowfall with an easy-to-use smartphone app. Lynker scientists will compare these crowdsourced observations to satellite products and model output in order to help advance NASA’s mission of better monitoring the changing hydrosphere.
This project builds on previous Lynker citizen science work with DRI on rain and snow patterns in the Lake Tahoe area of the Sierra Nevada. A peer-reviewed article can be found at the open-access Frontiers in Earth Science journal (https://doi.org/10.3389/feart.2021.617594) and a report is posted on the European Geophysical Union’s Cryospheric Sciences blog (https://blogs.egu.eu/divisions/cr/2021/02/12/rain-or-snow-answering-the-question-with-citizen-scientists/).
Photo courtesy of Meghan Collins

The Cost of Climate Change Inaction

Lynker’s Water Resources Scientist, Ryan Spies, gave a presentation on “The cost of climate-inaction” at the TEDx 2020 Climate Countdown. TED Countdown is a worldwide movement to find ways to shift, more rapidly, to a world with net zero greenhouse emissions and tackle the climate crisis. Click here for the full presentation.  The Cost of Climate Inaction

Climate change will continue to increase our risks to extreme weather events. Businesses and communities are looking to understand what to expect in terms of damages, added expenses, and lost revenues in the coming decades. What is the cost of doing nothing in the face of climate change? We have the resources to explore this question – check out the State of Colorado’s Future Avoided Cost Explorer (FACE:Hazards). By understanding the dollar value price tag of future extreme weather events, we can make the financial case for investing in our resilience. This information will help us make data-driven decisions that will ultimately save money and help prevent hardships for our communities and economies.

 

Hydrologic Manuscript Published and Available!

Lynker is proud to announce the recent publication of “Signatures of Hydrologic Function Across the Critical Zone Observatory Network”, written by our Water Resources Scientist, Dr. Adam Wlostowski and his outstanding team of coauthors. This study characterizes hydrologic dynamics of fifteen catchments of the US Critical Zone Observatory Network where it’s hypothesized that our understanding of subsurface structure would illuminate patterns of hydrologic partitioning.  For the link to the early view of the manuscript in the Water Resources Research Journal, click here:

 https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2019WR026635

 

 

International Projects

Lynker has worked with many international clients over the years on interesting climate topics. Lynker staff serve in a variety of roles in this field.

Inter-American Development Bank, Climate Change

Technical Lead, climate change impacts in central America, Inter-American Development Bank (IADB, 2014-2015). Developed climate change scenarios for future precipitation extremes to help IADB quantify climate change impacts on transportation and water supply infrastructure.

 USAID Climate Change Coastal Infrastructure Impact

Workshop leader, Understanding climate change impacts on coastal infrastructure in Mozambique (USAID, 2013-2014). For a USAID project on climate resilient development, Dr. Wobus prepared materials on climate change for stakeholder workshops, facilitated in-country group discussions, and helped municipal stakeholders understand the impacts of climate change on their local planning.

USAID Resiliency Papers

Contributing Author, USAID climate resilient development papers (USAID, 2014-2015). Contributed to annexes on climate change impacts to the coastal zone and water resources, as part of the USAID Climate Resilient Development framework set of papers.

Chinese Environmental Planning Workshop

Technical Lead, natural resources damage assessment (NRDA) workshop for the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning (American Bar Association, 2011). Developed a workshop for Chinese environmental officials describing the process of NRDA, and presented three talks over a two-day workshop in Beijing

World Bank Climate Change Impacts to Transportation

Technical lead, climate change impacts to transportation infrastructure in Africa (World Bank, 2013). Assisted with the development of future climate change scenarios for an assessment of transportation system vulnerabilities in Africa.

Citizen Science Initiative on the Yakima River

While directing a watershed science research team (RGIS-CSI Pacific Northwest) at Central Washington University (CWU), Lynker’s Graeme Aggett won a USDA-CSREES grant to develop a citizen science initiative on the Yakima River to gain better understanding of the impacts of agricultural use and master-plan development land use changes on a reach of the Yakima River, a Blue Ribbon trout fishing river in Washington State.

Like many western US waters, the Yakima River has been dammed, dewatered for large-scale agriculture, and deforested. These impacts bring urgency to the need to understand the health of entire river system in order to better protect and rehabilitate them. The best way to gain this understanding is to measure the vital signs of a river through the whole watershed, yet monitoring many miles of river is an overwhelming task, one that cannot often be accomplished by academic scientists or government agencies alone. This project focused on attracting, educating and training citizen scientists in the basin to play a critical role in large-scale data collection to benefit the Yakima River. The key goal was monitoring water quality and quantity, species density, and, over time, climate-change impacts.

Data collected by citizens created windows into the health of the system and was analyzed by our team and others on CWU campus. The main purpose of the program was to inform protection and restoration actions through the collection of quality data that could be used to better understand the river’s condition. The group’s water quality monitoring followed five parameters: dissolved oxygen, pH, water and air temperature, turbidity and conductivity.Volunteers were prepared to collect water quality data with five hours of training and chaperoned site visits. All measurements were made in the field with relatively inexpensive equipment (except turbidity, in which a water sample is returned to the CWU Chemistry Department for measurement).

Volunteers also collected a variety of environmental observations at their site, including the presence of invasive species or unusual changes to the water, such as cloudiness – these observations have proven useful in conducting follow-up investigations and planning restoration projects. This citizen-based program proved valuable for developing partnerships that can perform targeted monitoring and analysis, this helping to improve the suitability of the river for recovering salmon by increasing stream flows downstream of dams, and improving riparian canopy. Data could also be used as evidence for a need to change flow regimes when negotiating hydropower dam relicensing permits.

Design for Restoration of James Creek between Jamestown and Left Hand Creek Confluence

Lynker, working with a team comprised of Otak, Ecos and Amec, developed a 30% stream restoration design for James Creek that supported a CDBG-DR implementation funding application and provided clear direction for detailed engineering and specifications. Lynker developed a conceptual model that describes and illustrates past, present and potential future conditions of the study sites from an ecological and geomorphic perspective.

Lynker then provided LWOG and stakeholders recommendations for appropriate restoration goals necessary to achieve a sustainable trajectory for the study reaches. The site conditions assessment was founded on a combined desktop and field investigation supported by development of a project specific GIS and subsequent spatial analysis. A project specific 1D (HEC-RAS) hydraulic model was developed in order to develop various design data products on demand (e.g. water surface elevations, stream velocities, shear stress and stream power). The model will be tightly coupled to Geo-RAS so that all these outputs could be rapidly developed and visualized spatially as a function of the selected design flow and in relation to stage and discharge through the reach.

Lynker then conducted field and desktop-based geomorphic analysis to assess key erosive and depositional processes and causes of lateral and vertical instability and existing controls in the study reaches, the results of this assessment being presented using Rivertsyles © to facilitate discussion of existing and proposed conditions. The team’s ecology specialist identified ecological restoration opportunities, Lynker’s design process built upon relevant prior analyses to assess the current and desired geomorphic condition to determine the most technically feasible and cost-effective resilient restoration alternatives that best matched stakeholders’ input, and technical and regulatory constraints.

Lynker then developed 30% designs to support a CDBG-DR implementation funding application, the designs providing clear direction for detailed engineering and specifications. Design development included geometries for compound channels that will provide fish habitat, cross-sectional stability, sediment conveyance, and overbank access across the range of design flows. The designs included revegetation options for optimal instream habitat benefit, long-term bank stability, and moderating water quality. Finally, the project team developed a draft monitoring and adaptive management strategy. A key part of this project was coordination with Boulder County and supporting LWOG with stakeholder meetings throughout the process of developing the design plans.

Lefthand Creek Watershed Master Plan

Lynker developed a watershed master plan to serve as a road map for rebuilding roads and bridges in the Left Hand Creek watershed, restoring the stream and protecting against future flood events. The plan included conceptual-level designs to illustrate recommendations for different river styles including headwater, confined valley with bedrock controlled floodplain pockets, limited floodplain, partly confined/wandering, unconfined/continuous floodplain and entrenched/residential. These designs were refined and approved by the Coalition. Throughout the process, the team kept the Coalition and the public informed and engaged through a comprehensive set of Coalition and community meetings and communications. Stakeholders interested in the future of the Watershed have a valuable statement of the status of the creek and a road map for selecting, funding and implementing long-term restoration projects. The plan was adopted by the Board in February 2015.