Sunday, August 9, 2009

A picture is worth a thousand words

SMV is conducting a multi-year study of fishes and invertebrates. Yes, we’re collecting, identifying, and counting critters! But we’re also looking at the physical environment: water temperature, current, pH... all sorts of other factors that determine what critters live where.

OK, this is where I need to get a bit “wordy” to explain things. You see, one goal of this study is designing a mathematical model… basically, a computer program… that can predict what critters should be in a creek. Plug in your values for stream order, stream depth, etc etc… and wow, here’s a list of the fishes and inverts you’ll find!

Believe it or not, scientists get really excited about this type of modeling. A program like this could then predict how climate and ecosystem changes will play out in the future. In the midst of an epic drought? Tweak the input values for water temp and stream depth, and see what happens to your fish populations.

Of course, to build a realistic program, we need to look at data from more than one stream (we’re studying 21.) And we definitely need to consider how human factors (Storm runoff! Culverts! and dams! Oh my!) come into play. Which leads me, in my long-winded wordy way, to today’s pictures, courtesy of Google Earth.

Satellite view #1: half of our study sites are in this region

Satellite view # 2: and the other half are here!

Think we can get some good “human impact” data for our computer program?

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