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project description
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  We will conduct an international workshop in Flagstaff to teach participants how to assemble and deploy large-scale wireless sensor network to measure a wide variety of environmental variables. In year five, when we have extensive experience in the deployment of wireless sensor arrays, Paul Flikkema, Brent West, and Mario Montes-Helu with assistance from Amy Whipple will lead this dissemination workshop. We will select participants from all over the world and from a range of fields (biology, ecology, geology, agronomy, environmental sciences, air quality, etc.). Workshop topics will include: 1) Fundamental concepts of wireless networking; 2) Sensor technology: air temperature, soil temperature, wind speed and direction, water content in soil and leaves, solar radiation, and relative humidity; 2) Interfacing with the sensors via WISARD: connecting sensors, communicating with the sensors, programming WISARD, sampling rates, data compression, deploying sensors in different environments, requirements and limitations, and collecting data; and 3) discussion of potential applications. The week-long workshop will include putting together and testing WISARD networks. Evaluation will consist of: 1) assessment of the quality of the projects emerging from the workshop, 2) evaluation forms completed by the participants, and 3) follow-up contacts one years later to determine how many of the participants have been involved in efforts to deploy or obtain funding for wireless sensor networks.

Graduate students, undergraduate students and postdoctoral researchers involved in this research will receive cross-disciplinary training in biology and engineering. This will enable us to train engineers who have enough knowledge of environmental biology to come up with creative ideas for engineering solutions to environmental research problems. We will also train ecologists who have enough understanding of electrical engineering to be able to make better use of high-tech tools in their research. Biologist and engineers with cross-disciplinary training will also be better prepared to communicate across disciplines. Cross-disciplinary training for students and postdoctoral researchers will come from combined mentoring by Paul Flikkema, Jim Clark, Bruce Hungate, George Koch, and Steve Sillett, and from taking selected courses across disciplines. In addition, three meetings will be held in Flagstaff bringing together the faculty, staff, and students involved in the project. These meetings will include progress reports, planning for future work, and the incorporation of completed aspects of research into outreach efforts. Presentations at these meetings by students will be evaluated by faculty participants. The focus of these evaluations will be on demonstrated understanding of the students secondary field whether that be biology or engineering. The faculty will then meet to discuss what training measures could be taken to remediate weaknesses. Finally, Paul Flikkema and two other NAU participants will travel to Duke University and to Humboldt State University to visit the other two deployment sites and exchange information.

NAU has a diverse student population and a commitment to involve students in research. Members of the NAU faculty in the Biological and Environmental Sciences (including the NAU co-PI’s on this proposal) are an integral part of a NSF University Mentoring in Environmental Biology (UMEB) grant that targets under-represented groups for involvement in research ( In its first two years UMEB has had great success in recruiting Hispanic (3) and Native American (7) students (along with 1 Caucasian non-Hispanic student). The first graduate from the program, Melissa Reyes, is currently applying to graduate school. We will use the recruitment and administrative framework already established for UMEB to bring in students to work with the PI’s on this proposal. This will both help maintain the program beyond the currently funded NSF grant and expand the program to include an engineering faculty mentor and cross-disciplinary training in biology and engineering. Nancy Johnson (NAU) is currently serving as PI on the grant funding the UMEB program. And an assessment program for student in the UMEB program is being developed. In addition to the UMEB program, NAU sponsors an intramural grants program for undergraduate researchers, the Hooper Undergraduate Research Awards (HURA) program. This program encourages participation in research by students, or teams of students, in all disciplines and will be expanded to include a separate program for students from under-represented groups in spring 2003. Approximately 15 awards are made each year. George Koch served as a mentor to two students under this program in 2000-2001.The HURA program provides students with their first grant writing experience. Students also share responsibility for fund allocation with their faculty mentor once a proposal is funded. Both of these experiences are very valuable to aspiring scientists.

Our outreach activities will center on hands-on experiences, an interactive CD-ROM, and expanded development of a web-based virtual environmental learning space. A small network of sensors will be deployed at The Arboretum at Flagstaff and at a National Monument Visitor Center in the Flagstaff area. A computer in the public display areas of these two facilities will display real-time data (and past data) collected from the sensors. A CD-ROM will guide users and provide access to a range of materials about this research project. There will be general introductions to how to use the sensors to answer scientific questions (scientific method), how to view data from the sensors, and how to interpret the data. There will be mini-documentaries on how the sensors work (one) and on the scientific research accomplished with them (three). We will have NAU students help us in translating the videos into Spanish, Navajo, and Hopi. When school groups or other groups come to the sites a teacher or an interpretive/education specialist can also assist them with designing experiments to answer questions with sensor data. Then the sensors could be moved around and data collected to answer particular questions.

The Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research and NAU faculty are currently developing a Virtual Environmental Learning Space (VELS), a secure, web-based tool to assist instruction in environmental biology. Within this space, students will have access to a wide variety of resources associated with the C. Hart Merriam Elevation Gradient, including remote monitoring sites and equipment, special course modules, data, and reference and training resources. We will expand the VELS to include materials developed for this project’s Arboretum/National Parks CD-ROM. We also will develop a virtual environment in which people can set up virtual experiments at the Arboretum and Parks sites and obtain simulated data based on the real data collected at those sites to replace the hands on experience available at the Arboretum and National Parks. Thus, courses without labs or budgets for field trips could incorporate this technology.

We will expand the VELS audience to include the general public and K-12 education. To assist us in expanding the use of the Virtual Environmental Learning Space for K-12 education we will hold a workshop in which NAU faculty, staff, and students will work with Arboretum staff, NPS staff, Joelle Clark of the Science and Math Learning Center, and K-12 teachers to develop activities making use of the site. We will recruit teachers for this workshop from under-resourced schools serving minorities and Native Americans and from rural and urban schools. The Science and Math Learning Center has extensive contacts with school teachers inclusive of the reservations.

Assessment of our outreach efforts will be multi-faceted. We will use a program of survey/interviews currently under development by Joelle Clark to learn about the effectiveness of current “Science in the Parks” programs and this evaluation program will remain in place to evaluate additional modules associated with this proposal (Clark 1998, Loucks et al. no date). Also currently under development for the Flagstaff area National Monuments is an assessment program to evaluate interpretive displays, which we will adapt to assess the Parks and Arboretum displays. Finally a range of assessment tools are planned for VELS: website user statistics, web surveys, and evaluation of student work based on VELS will also be applied to this program. Test audiences will be used to refine the development of the CD-ROM.
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