Real Whales are not the Same as Cartoon Whales

Reading my news feeds this morning while eating breakfast, I came across Gizmodo’s repost of the article “Whales Don’t Spray Water Out of Their Blowholes Nor are Their Throats and Blowhole Connected.”  I have to admit that my first reaction was “you mean people don’t already know that?”  But in fairness, not everyone spent a third of their life on or near Puget Sound, or is married to someone who grew up living on an island. Something everyone should know or not, there were a number of bits of really cool whale trivia:

  • When a whale inhales, it flexes a muscle that opens its blowhole.  They relax the muscle to close the blowhole before diving.
  • The spray when a whale surfaces is a mixture of condensation of water vapor from warm lungs in the cool air and mucus.
  • Baleen whales general have two blowholes (like nostrils), while toothed whales general only have one.
  • A blue whale’s lung capacity is 5000 liters (author note: which is 833 times larger than an adult human’s 6 liters.  When you add efficiency of use (whales are supposed to use something like 90% of the oxygen that enters their lungs, while humans use only about 15%.), a blue whale has very close to 5000 times the available oxygen in a single breath.  If we assume an average mass of 150 metric tons (150000 kg) for a blue whale and an average mass of 70 kg for an adult human, this gives the blue whale 33.3 mL of usable oxygen capacity for each kg of body mass per breath compared to 12.8 mL that an average human has per kg of body mass.  A blue whale, then has 2.59 times more available oxygen per kg of body mass per breath than a human.  Wow!)
  • Humpback whales can sneeze air at over 300 mph.
  • Because a whale’s trachea and esophagus are not connected, it’s next to impossible for it to choke on food.
  • Whales allow one half of the brain to sleep at a time instead of falling fully asleep. This lets them rest rest while still able to surface when they need air.

I can’t actually vouch for the truthfulness of any of the above, not being a whale biologist, but it is pretty interesting bits of trivia. via gizomodo

Image Credit: Creative Commons Image posted to Flickr on June 11, 2013 by Mike Baird at:

Choosing a Notebook

Does it matter what kind of notebook you use for your field journal?  Probably not, although there are features of some certain journals that are probably better for some uses than other journals would be.  My very first field journal was given to me by my science-teacher uncle when I flew by myself to Kansas to visit him when I was 13, during the summer after seventh grade.  That book was an Elan Level Book, orange, 4 5/8x7in (which turns out to be the standard field journal size), with 140 writable pages, and 10 pages of tables in the back.  Uncle Bill was trying to teach me scientific method, and the first pages of the book are filled with the careful notes of our experiments.  I loved that book, but didn’t know where it came from, or that I could get another one for five or six dollars, and in not knowing that, I cherished it, saving its pages for some great experiment I might someday do, and thereby ensured that I would never learn enough, never experience enough, to do that great experiment.

Many shelves full of cherished, and therefore half-filled books later, I bought a Moleskine (mol-a-skeen-a) Large Squared Journal to keep notes and ideas for a rivers class and a land-use planning class I was taking.  Having continuously failed to keep and fill a notebook, I was determined to write, regardless of mistakes, or value of the writing, and fill the book up.  I cherished my Moleskine, and so I filled it.  And it was great.  The Moleskine is a little bigger than the standard field journal with an oilskin cover, a pocket in the back, a band that keeps the cover closed, and beautiful ivory pages that are just lovely to write on.  Of all the books I’ve had, I think that the Moleskine was my favorite.

Lately I have been using a “Rite in the Rain” All-Weather Field Book, the same size as the Elan book, with 150 numbered pages.  The best thing about the RITR books is that the pages are coated with something that keeps them from getting mushy even when there are directly in the rain.  Add a pressurized all-weather pen to the mix, and you can write in almost any weather condition.  The RITR books are nice to use in the field because of the security of not losing all of your notes if it rains, but the pages can be hard to write on (you have to match you pen to the page, finding one that won’t bleed on the special paper), and they are expensive.  For about the same price, you can buy a Moleskine and have almost double the writing space.  I have been using RITR books lately though, mostly out of a mix of laziness and desire to keep my notes dry (like it ever rains here anyway).

There are all kinds of other books, whether they are hard-bound like the ones I use, or spiral bound.  I prefer the hardbound books because my spirals always get damaged, and then I lose pages.  Does it really matter what kind of book you use for your field notes?  No, not really.  Anything that gets you writing is better that nothing.  But some books just feel so much better…


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Image Credits: Creative Commons Photo uploaded to Flickr on April 26, 2008 by Dvortygirl –



Acre – 43,560ft2

Acre-foot – (Acre-ft, AF, AC-FT) The volume of water that would cover one acre of land (43,560 square feet, about the size of an average football field) to a depth of one foot, equivalent to 325,851 gallons of water. An acre-foot is the basic measure of agricultural water use. The average California family uses 2/3 of an acre-foot of water each year (afa = acre-ft per annum). The average crop uses three acre-feet of water in a growing season.

Alluvium – A general term for all detrital material deposited or in transit by streams, including gravel, sand, silt, clay, and all variations and mixtures of these.

Anastomosed Stream Type – a multi-tread channel system with a very low stream gradient and the bankfull width of each individual channel noted as highly variable.  The related valley morphology is seen as a series of broad, gently sloping wetland features developed on or within lacustrine deposits, river deltas, or splays, and fine-grained alluvial deposits.  Stream banks are often constructed with fine-grained cohesive materials, supporting dense-rooted vegetation species, and are extremely stable.

Appropriation Doctrine – (Also called Prior Appropriation Doctrine) the system for allocating water to private individuals used in most Western states. The doctrine of Prior Appropriation was in common use throughout the arid west as early settlers and miners began to develop the land. The prior appropriation doctrine is based on the concept of “First in Time, First in Right.” The first person to take a quantity of water and put it to Beneficial Use has a higher priority of right than a subsequent user. Under drought conditions, higher priority users are satisfied before junior users receive water. Appropriative rights can be lost through nonuse; they can also be sold or transferred apart from the land. Contrasts with Riparian Water Rights.

Aquifer – an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock, or permeable mixtures of unconsolidated materials (gravel, sand, silt, or clay) (see also groundwater). Some productive aquifers are in fractured rock (carbonate rock, basalt, or sandstone). The study of water flow in aquifers and the characterization of aquifers is hydrogeology.

Artesian Water – ground water that is under pressure when tapped by a well and is able to rise above the level at which it is first encountered. It may or may not flow out at ground level. The pressure in such an aquifer commonly is called artesian pressure, and the formation containing artesian water is an artesian aquifer or confined aquifer.

Artificial Recharge – an process where water is put back into ground-water storage from surface-water supplies such as irrigation, or induced infiltration from streams or wells.

Avulsion – the sudden movement of soil from one property to another as the result of a flood or a shift in the course of a boundary stream.  Streamflow spilling out of the banks of the existing channels.  Channel avulsion typically occurs where the existing channel is incapable of carrying all of the water and sediment supplied to it.


Baseflow – streamflow coming from groundwater seepage into a stream or river. Groundwater flows underground until the water table intersects the land surface and the flowing water becomes surface water in the form of springs, streams/rivers, lakes and wetlands. Baseflow is the continual contribution of groundwater to rivers and is an important source of flow between rainstorms.

Bedrock – general term for consolidated (solid) rock that underlies soils or other unconsolidated material.

Benthic – refers to material, especially sediment, at the bottom of an aquatic ecosystem.  It can be used to describe the organisms that live on, or in, the bottom of a water body.  Benthic organisms are not free-floating like pelagic organisms.

Benthos – biota that live on or near the bottom of a body of water.  Both mobile and non-mobile.


Capillary Action – the movement of water in the interstices of a porous medium due to capillary forces (after ASTM, 1980). The depression or elevation of the meniscus of a liquid contained in a tube of small diameter due to the combined effects of gravity, surface tension, and the forces of cohesion and adhesion.

CFS – Cubic-Feet per second. The rate of discharge representing a volume of 1 cubic foot passing a given point during 1 second and is equivalent to approximately 7.48 gallons per second or 448.8 gallons per minute. The volume of water represented by a flow of 1 cubic foot per second for 24 hours is equivalent to 86,400 cubic feet, approximately 1.983 AF, or 646,272 gallons.

Channel Flow – The volume of water in transit in a system between inflow and outflow.

Chute Cutoffs – small channels cutting across a point-bar.

Circuli – concentric lines of the smooth, flat, round scalles (called cycloid scales) found on trout, herring, and other fish.  Circuli act like growth rings on a tree.  They can tell how old a fish is, and how fast it grew each year.  This can give a clue to the life history of the fish.

Commercial Water Use – water used for motels, hotels, restaurants, office buildings, other commercial facilities, fish hatcheries, and civilian and military institutions as classified by Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) or North American Industrial Classification codes.

Condemnation – See “Eminent Domain”

Condensation – the process by which a substance changes from a vapor or gaseous state to a liquid form, as water vapor in the air condenses into droplets of liquid on the outside of a cold drinking glass. The condensation of water vapor into clouds and precipitation is a vital link in the hydrologic cycle.

Consumptive Use – that part of water withdrawn that is evaporated, transpired, incorporated into products or crops, consumed by humans or livestock, or otherwise removed from the immediate water environment. Also referred to as water consumed.

Conveyance Loss – water that is lost in transit from a pipe, canal, conduit, or ditch by leakage or evaporation. Generally, the water is not available for further use; however, leakage from an irrigation ditch, for example, may percolate to a ground-water source and be available for further use.


Discharge – the volume of water (or more broadly, volume of fluid plus suspended sediment) that passes a given point within a given period of time.

Domestic Water Use – water for household purposes, such as drinking, food preparation, bathing, washing clothes and dishes, flushing toilets, and watering lawns and gardens. Also called residential water use. The water may be obtained from a public supply or may be self supplied.

Drainage Basin – See “Watershed”

Drawdown – the lowering of the surface elevation of a body of water, the water surface of a well, the water table, or the piezometric surface adjacent to the well, resulting from the withdrawl of water therefrom.

Drip Irrigation – a method of microirrigation wherein water is applied to the soil surface as drops or small streams through emitters. Discharge rates are generally less than 8 Liters/hour (2 gal/hour) for single-outlet emitters and 12 Liters/hour (3 gal/hour) per meter for line-source emitters ASAE.)


Eminent Domain – (also know as condemnation) is the taking of title to private land by a public agency or publicly regulated utility company

Endemic Species – Plants or animals that occur naturally in a certain region and whose distribution is relatively limited to a particular locality.  Enimism is the occurance of endemic species in an area.

Erosion – the wearing away of land surface by wind or water, intensified by land-clearing practices related to farming, residential or industrial development, road building, or logging.

Evaporation – The change of state of liquid, from a liquid to a vapour state, below the boiling point of the liquid. Has the effect of cooling the liquid as it is the molecules with the highest kinetic energies which escape into the atmosphere through the liquid surface. This results in a drop of the average kinetic energy of all the molecules in the liquid, and consequently a fall in temperature. The calculation of evaporative losses is very complex. Most areas have a meteorological office who can provide approximations of evaporative losses for the area.

Evapotranspiration – the evaporation of water from the soil and the transpiration of water from the plants that live in that soil. Approximately one-quarter of a forest’s annual rainfall returns to the air through evapotranspiration.


Floodplain – land immediately adjoining a stream which is inundated when the discharge exceeds the conveyance of the normal channel. The channel proper and the areas adjoining the channel which have been or hereafter may be covered by the regulatory or 100-year flood. Any normally dry land area that is susceptible to being inundated by water from any natural source. The floodplain includes both the floodway and the floodway fringe districts.

Flood Routing – The computation of inflow, outflow and storage for a reach of river

Freshwater – water that contains less than 1,000 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of dissolved solids; generally, more than 500 mg/L of dissolved solids is undesirable for drinking and many industrial uses.


Geometric Mean – a measure of the central tendancy of a data set that minimizes the effects of extreme values.

Groundwater – generally all subsurface water as distinct from surface water; specifically, that part of the subsurface water in the saturated zone (a zone in which all voids are filled with water) where the water is under pressure greater than atmospheric.


Headwater(s) – 1.) the source and upper reaches of a stream; also the upper reaches of a reservoir. 2.) the water upstream from a structure or point on a stream. (3) the small streams that come together to form a river. Also may be thought of as any and all parts of a river basin except the mainstream river and main tributaries.

Humus – decomposed organic matter.  Healthy soil will consist of about 3.5 to 5% of this organic matter.  Humus is soft, sweet-smelling, shapeless dark, and crumbly, and smells like the forest floor (more correctly, the forest floor smells like humus because that is what it is made of).  It is this stage of the decomposition process which provides nutrients for plant life.  It contains about 30% each of lignin, protein, and complex sulfars.  It contains 3-5% Nitrogen and 55-60% carbon (which can’t be right, because that all adds up to 155%, but that is what I have written in my notes).  Humus is the slow-release food source for microorganism development.  It is constantly being transformed into acids, enzymes, and minerals, and, therefor, must be constantly replenished for proper vegetative nutrition.

Hydrologic Cycle – A model describing the movement of water above, on, and in the Earth. Can be shown mathematically as Precipitation = Run Off + EvapoTranspiration + Infiltration + Storage (P=RO+ET+I+S)

Hypatic Circulation – circulation of blood through the liver.


Infiltration – the passage of water through the soil surface into the soil.

Instream Use – water that is used, but not withdrawn, from a surface-water source for such purposes as hydroelectric-power generation, navigation, water-quality improvement, fish propagation, and recreation.

Irrigation Water Use – water that is applied by an irrigation system to assist in the growing of crops and pastures or to maintain vegetative growth in recreational lands such as parks and golf courses. Irrigation includes water that is applied for pre-irrigation, frost protection, chemical application, weed control, field preparation, crop cooling, harvesting, dust suppression, the leaching of salts from the root zone, and water lost in conveyance.




Lacustrine – 1.) of, or pertaining to a lake.  2.) Deposits laid down in relatively still-water lakes – May be detrital or organic material, or clays and silts.  Lacustrine is related to the word “Lake.”  Thus a lacustrine wetland is, by definition, lake-associated.  This category may include freshwater marshed, aquatic beds, as well as lake shores.  Distinctions between lacustrine and palustrine habitat are primarily contingent on the way in which lake is defined.

Land – 1.) Physical material: soil, minerals (subsurface mineral rights), and vegetation.   2.) Real Estate – land as property.   3.) Capital Value – land has instrument value.

Lentic – of, or relating to, or living in still waters.  Lentic tends to be used for freshwater habitats.  Some examples of lentic environments are lakes, ponds, and flooded forests.  Deeper standing water, like a lake, is affected by strong stratification.  There is an upper layer and a lower layer seperated by a narrow in-between layer of water.  The upper layer of water has higher oxygen, more light, more plankton, and tends to be warmer that the lower layer.  Contrast with lotic.

Levee – tn hydrologic terms, a long, narrow embankment usually built to protect land from flooding. If built of concrete or masonary the structure is usually referred to as a flood wall. Levees and floodwalls confine streamflow within a specified area to prevent flooding. The term “dike” is used to describe an embankment that blocks an area on a reservoir or lake rim that is lower than the top of the dam.

Lotic – of, or relating to, or living in actively moving water.  Lotic tends to be used for freshwater habitats.  Some examples of lotic habitats are rivers and streams.  In lotic water, most fish prefer deeper, slow-moving areas of water to shallow, fast-moving waters in the same stream or river.  In a fast current, the fish must use more energy to keep from being carried downstream.  Fish also tend to prefer vegetation because it protects them from predators.  Contrast with lentic.


Mining Water Use – water use for the extraction of minerals occurring naturally including solids, such as coal and ores; liquids, such as crude petroleum; and gases, such as natural gas. Also includes uses associated with quarrying, well operations (dewatering), milling (crushing, screening, washing, floatation, and so forth), and other preparations customarily done at the mine site or as part of a mining activity. Does not include water used in processing, such as smelting, refining petroleum, or slurry pipeline operations. These uses are included in industrial water use.




Palustrine – vegetated wetlands dominated by trees, shrubs, and persistant emergents.  Comes from the Latin word “palus” which means marsh.  Wetlands in this category include areas traditionally called marsh, swamp, bog, fen, prarie, and also includes small, shallow, permanent or intermittent water bodies called ponds less than 6.6ft deep.  Ant inland wetland which lacks flowing water and conains ocean-derived salts of less than .05%.  Except for ponds, palustrine bodies are situated shoreward of lakes, river channels, and large river enbayments.

Particle Size – in dealing with sediments and sedimentary rocks it is necessary that precise dimensions should be applied to such terms as clay, sand, pebble, etc. Numerous scales have been suggested, but in this work, the Wentworth-Udden scale is used, as it is widely accepted as an international standard. Particle size is normally determined by hand measurement of pebbles, cobbles, and boulders; sieving of gravel, sand, and silt; and elutriation of silt and clay. Boulder: >256 mm; Cobble: 64 – 256 mm; Pebble: 4 – 64 mm; Gravel: 2 – 4 mm; Sand: 1/16 – 2 mm; Silt: 1/256 – 1/16 mm; Clay: <1/256 mm.

Peak Flow – maximum flow through a watercourse which will recur with a stated frequency. The maximum flow for a given frequency may be based on measured data, calculated using statistical analysis of peak flow data, or calculated using hydrologic analysis techniques. Projected peak flows are used in the design of culverts, bridges, and dam spillways.

Pelagic – refers to fish and animals that live in the open sea, away from the sea bottom.  Pelagic organisms swim through the ocean, and may rise to the surface or sink to the bottom.  They are not confined to the bottom like benthic organisms.  Pelagic organisms are generally free-swimming (nektonic) or ploating (planktonic).

Percolation – the actual movement of subsurface water either horizontally or vertically; lateral movement of water in the soil subsurface toward nearby surface drainage feature (eg stream) or vertical movement through the soil to groundwater zone.

Permeability – a measure of the rate at which water will flow into or through soil or rocks.

Phytotoxic – toxic, damaging or harmful to plants, often by destroying the protective surface on plant leaves.  Partially composted organic matter may have acids or alchohols present that will harm young or sensitive plants.  Partially-decomposed compost is therefore refered to as phytotoxic.  The property of a substance at a specific concentration that restricts or constrains plant growth.

Phytotoxin – any substance produced by plants that is similar in properties to extracellular bacterial toxin.  Plant toxin.

Porosity – is a measure of the voids in unconsolidated sediments or bedrock. It is the ratio of volume of openings to the total volume of the material.

Piscary – fishery: a workplace where fish are caught and processed and sold.

Prior Appropriation Doctrine – See “Appropriation Doctrine”

Public Supply – water withdrawn by public governments and agencies, such as a county water department, and by private companies that is then delivered to users. Public suppliers provide water for domestic, commercial, thermoelectric power, industrial, and public water users. Most people’s household water is delivered by a public water supplier. The systems have at least 15 service connections (such as households, businesses, or schools) or regularly serve at least 25 individuals daily for at least 60 days out of the year.

Public Water Use – water supplied from a public-water supply and used for such purposes as firefighting, street washing, and municipal parks and swimming pools.


Quasi-Equilibrium – unimpaired by humans, natural river conditions are balanced, where the size and form of the channel is maintined by the flow of water and sediment with only slow and gradual change.


Recharge – mechanisms of inflow to the aquifer. Typical sources of recharge are precipitation, applied irrigation water, underflow from tributary basins and seepage from surface water bodies.

Reservoir – a pond, lake, or basin, either natural or artificial, for the storage, regulation, and control of water.

Riffle – a protuberance on the bed of a stream.  A topographic high.

Riparian Water Rights – the rights of an owner whose land abuts water. They differ from state to state and often depend on whether the water is a river, lake, or ocean. The doctrine of riparian rights is an old one, having its origins in English common law. Specifically, persons who own land adjacent to a stream have the right to make reasonable use of the stream. Riparian users of a stream share the streamflow among themselves, and the concept of priority of use (Prior Appropriation Doctrine) is not applicable. Riparian rights cannot be sold or transferred for use on nonriparian land.

Runoff – 1.) That part of the precipitation, snow melt, or irrigation water that appears in uncontrolled surface streams, rivers, drains or sewers. Runoff may be classified according to speed of appearance after rainfall or melting snow as direct runoff or base runoff, and according to source as surface runoff, storm interflow, or ground-water runoff. 2.) The total discharge described in #1, above, during a specified period of time. 3.) Also defined as the depth to which a drainage area would be covered if all of the runoff for a given period of time were uniformly distributed over it.


Saline Water – water that contains significant amounts of dissolved solids. Fresh water – Less than 1,000 parts per million (ppm); Slightly saline water – From 1,000 ppm to 3,000 ppm; Moderatly saline water – From 3,000 ppm to 10,000 ppm; Highly saline water – From 10,000 ppm to 35,000 ppm

Sediment – solid fragmental matter, either inorganic or organic, that originates from weathering of rocks and is transported and deposited by air, water, or ice, or that is accumulated by other natural agents, such as chemical precipitation from solution or secretion from organisms. When deposited, it generally forms layers of loose, unconsolidated material (for example, sand, gravel, silt, mud, till, loess, alluvium).

Sinkhole – a depression in the Earth’s surface caused by dissolving of underlying limestone, salt, or gypsum. Drainage is provided through underground channels that may be enlarged by the collapse of a cavern roof.

Splash Dams – dames used in logging to impound water on small streams.  The water from several dams was released in a coordinated fashion to supply a “tide” of water to float large logs.

Spray Irrigation – an common irrigation method where water is shot from high-pressure sprayers onto crops. Because water is shot high into the air onto crops, some water is lost to evaporation.

Stream – a general term for a body of flowing water; natural water course containing water at least part of the year. In hydrology, it is generally applied to the water flowing in a natural channel as distinct from a canal.

Subsidence – a settling of the ground surface caused by the collapse of porous formations that result from withdrawal of large amounts of groundwater, oil, or other underground materials.

Surface Water – water that sits or flows above the earth, including lakes, oceans, rivers, and streams.

Suspended Sediment – very fine soil particles that remain in suspension in water for a considerable period of time without contact with the bottom. Such material remains in suspension due to the upward components of turbulence and currents and/or by suspension.

Suspended Solids – solids that are not in true solution and that can be removed by filtration. Such suspended solids usually contribute directly to turbidity. Defined in waste management, these are small particles of solid pollutants that resist separation by conventional methods.


Teleost – any member of the infraclass Teleostei, a large and extremely diverse group of ray-finned fishes.  Along with the Chondrosteans and the Holosteans, they are one of the threthat part of water withdrawn that is evaporated, transpired, incorporated into products or crops, consumed by humans or livestock, or otherwise removed from the immediate water environment. Also referred to as water consumed.e major subdivisions of the class Actinopterygii, the most advanced of the bony fisheds.  Includes 95% of the world’s fish species.

Thalweg – line of deepest water in a stream.  The thalweg is the part that has the maximum velocity and causes cutbanks and channel migrations.that part of water withdrawn that is evaporated, transpired, incorporated into products or crops, consumed by humans or livestock, or otherwise removed from the immediate water environment. Also referred to as water consumed.

Transpiration – the process in which water is absorbed by the root systems of plants, moves up through the plant (via the xylem), passes through pores (stomata) in the leaves and other plant parts, and then evaporates into the atmosphere as water vapor.

Turbidity – the cloudy appearance of water caused by the presence of suspended and colloidal matter. In the waterworks field, a turbidity measurement is used to indicate the clarity of water. Technically, turbidity is an optical property of the water based on the amount of light reflected by suspended particles. Turbidity cannot be directly equated to suspended solids because white particles reflect more light than dark-colored particles.

Turgor – the normal rigid state of fullness of a cell or blood vessel or capillary resulting from pressure of the contents against the wall or membrane.


Unsaturated Zone – the zone between the land surface and the regional water table. Generally, fluid pressure in this zone is less than atmospheric pressure, and some of the voids may contain air or other gases at atmospheric pressure. Beneath flooded areas or in perched water bodies, the fluid pressure locally may be greater than atmospheric.



Wastewater – water that has been used in homes, industries, and businesses that is not for reuse unless it is treated.

Water Cycle – See “Hydrologic Cycle”

Watershed – (also called Drainage Basin) the land above a given point on a waterway that contributes runoff water to the flow at that point; a drainage basin or a major subdivision of a drainage basin.

Water Table – The level of ground water. The upper surface of the zone of saturation of groundwater above an impermeable layer of soil or rock (through which water cannot move) as in an unconfined aquifer. This level can be very near the surface of the ground or far below it.

Water Use – water that is used for a specific purpose, such as for domestic use, irrigation, or industrial processing. Water use pertains to human’s interaction with and influence on the hydrologic cycle, and includes elements, such as water withdrawal from surface- and ground-water sources, water delivery to homes and businesses, consumptive use of water, water released from wastewater-treatment plants, water returned to the environment, and instream uses, such as using water to produce hydroelectric power.





Peculiar Liquid: Water – Part 3

Water. It’s essential to life on our planet. But did you know how weird water is? In this series we are looking at the peculiarities of H2O. In Part 1, we showed that floating ice makes life possible. In Part 2, we talked about freezing and boiling temperatures. Today we will look at the interaction between water and light.

Water is transparent to visible light. The only way to see anything is for photons to reflect off of something, and then register on the photosensitive cells in the eyes. If water wasn’t transparent, we wouldn’t be able to see anything, at least not in the range of light that we do now.

Water is opaque to U.V. 95% of U.V. radiation is absorbed in the first four inches of water. Because the temperature of an object goes up when it absorbs radiation, this means that the surfaces of Earth’s water bodies are warmed, while subsurface water remains cool. The warm upper layer of water is called the epilimnon.

Peculiar Liquid: Water – Part 2

Water. It’s essential to life on our planet. But did you know how weird water is? In this series we are looking at the peculiarities of H2O. In Part 1, we showed that floating ice makes life possible. Today we will look at freezing and boiling temperatures.

Generally, the lower the molecular weight, the lower the heat of fusion and vaporization (the temperatures at which a chemical freezes and boils). On Earth, most chemicals with low atomic weights exist naturally only as gases because their boiling temperature is much lower than normal temperatures on our planet. Water, however, because its molecular configuration, has a very high heat of vaporization and a high heat of fusion (in relation to other chemicals with low atomic weight). This means that all three states of matter of water can be found on Earth’s surface, enabling the hydrologic cycle (we’re talking rain and snow) to function.

Peculiar Liquid: Water – Part 1

Every school child knows that water is 75% of the Earth’s surface, 75% of our bodies, 75% of a good, balanced meal, and 75% of just about anything that you can make up a bogus and totally random statistic about. Water has many peculiar properties that seperates it from other types of materials. This article is Part 1 of a series looking at the effects of Earth’s peculiar liquid: water.

Everyone knows that ice-cubes float. But did you know that the peculiar property of water that, unlike the solid of any other material, makes it less dense (and therefore “floaty”) when it is frozen, actually makes life on Earth possible?

The molecules of most chemicals bunch up as they get colder, reducing the volume and increasing the density of the mass as it approaches freezing. The crystaline structure of water, on the other hand, becomes more rigid, with the individual molecules moving into alignment and actually expanding 9% as it freezes.

So why do I say that this makes life possible? Imagine an Earth where every winter, water at the surface froze as it lost heat to the cooling atmosphere, and then sunk. The sunken ice at the bottom of all the water bodies would never have enough time to thaw before the end of summer heat, which means that the next winter’s ice would sink down to stack on the ice of the summer before, eventually locking the world’s water in a never-melting block of ice.


Floating ice, on the other, other hand, insulates the water below it, keeping it from freezing through the winter, and allowing aquatic organisms to survive the cold season. So there you have it: ice floats = life on Earth.

Stratigraphic Photogrammetry: Part 2 – A Quick Proof of Concept


I’ve been moving along, making progress on my methodology for stratigraphic photogrammetry. I don’t remember just off of the top of my head, but I think that the actual title of the paper is something like A Method for the Use of a Non-Metric Digital Camera in Stratigraphic Photogrammetry. I present the paper (which I will post here as soon as I am able, although I think that I want to have it edited by someone else before I post it here) on Wednesday morning. As part of finishing the paper, to show that my method can overcome the basic obsticles in using a non-metric camera to make metric photographs, I set up a flight-line on one of the public trails in the area and took a series of stereo photographs (digital images, actually) of a stratigraphic profile, as a proof-of-concept.

I set up on the John Wayne Trail in Eastern Ellensburg, Washington. The John Wayne Trail is a public jogging trail created along an old railroad prism and cuts. After weeks of plotting and figuring and calculation, I really didn’t know what to expect when I went out to take my images. craig2s.jpgI was pretty confident in my calculations for scale and coverage, but I really didn’t know. It turns out that my biggest problem wasn’t the photogrammetric method at all. The biggest problem was that most of the tasks of setting up a flight-line require two or three people to do them. I should have known that it would take more people. All of the things I needed to do, like pulling level lines and measuring grids, etc. are things that I have done before on monitoring projects or at the mammoth dig this summer. I really should have guessed that I wouldn’t have much luck trying to dig my toes into a slick clay slope, pull a metric tape and a level line with one hand, place a grid-corner nail with the other before hurrying to grab my hammer and try to pound the nail in before it fell. I eventually gave up trying to build a reference grid onto the wall, which would have been a necessary step if I was planning on orthorectifying my images to overcome radial distortion caused by the short focal length and cheap lense of my camera. craig3s.jpgLuckily, I was trying to create stereo images, which no longer show stereo if they are orthorectified, and so had no real need for the reference grid. Overall the images turned out even better than I expected. I couldn’t get right at the wall, so I had to pull back away from it to 10m. This put the visible stratigraphy at the very top of the image: much smaller that I had hoped for, but more than enough under the circumstances. The images do indeed show up in 3D under a stereoscope.

If you click on the thumbnails you can see bigger versions of the images, but even those are small, poor quality versions. I reduced the resolution to save bandwidth. If you have any interest in the full-resolution pictures, just drop me a note, either by e-mail, or in the comments to this post, and I will send them to you.

Stratigraphic Photogrammetry: Part 1 – Calculations for Photometrics on the Olympus C-750

For the last few months, I have been working on a methodology for using terrestrial photogrammetry techniques in capturing stratigraphic profiles. The original idea for this came on the Wenas Mammoth dig (which I wrote about on 10 August 2005), when we were not sure, at one point, if our trench, cut into a wall of loess, would survive over the weekend. At that point, we were only about halfway through our stratigraphic analysis, and a colapse of the trench over the weekend would have set us back very far. I took systematic close-up photographs of the trench wall, hoping to capture some of the features of the stratigraphy in case we lost the wall.

The trench didn’t fall over the weekend, which was a very good thing: in my ignorance, I made many mistakes taking my photographs, and they were completely unusable. Since then, I have been working on the techniques to make measureable photographs of a wall. Because I am using a digital camera to make digital images, the first step in the methodology is to calculate image size, scale, coverage, resolution and spacing for the camera. Because the focal length and sensor size, as well as the pixel resolution, of each digital camera is different, the calculations have to be made for each model of camera (although cameras with the exact same focal length, pixel resolution, and sensor size would have the same calculations). I have an Olympus C-750, which has a focal length of 7.8mm, and a sensor size of 5.67mm x 4.39mm. I am including here a table of all the different calculations for my camera, assuming a screen and print resolution of 200dpi, which would give a photo size of 8″ x 10″.

Update (11/12/05): Going out in the field today to actually try making metric photographs with my camera, using the calculations from Table 1.1 below, I realised that the calculations I made were actually for the Olympus C-140 and C-160 3.2 MP UltraZoom cameras, and that the model that I actually own is the Olympus C-150 4MP. The origianl table of calculations is of no use to me because I don’t own those cameras, but I will leave it here on the chance that someone might be able to make some use of it. I have added the calculations of the Olympus C-150, the camera that I actually own, as Table 1.2, below.


Update (11/14/05): I have posted Part 2 of my discussion of stratigraphic photogrammetry using a consumer-level digital camera.


Table 1.1 Coverage, Resolution, and Scale Calculations for the Olympus C-740/760 3.2MP Digital Cameras
Distance from Wall DV Coverage (m) DH Coverage (m) Photoscale (200dpi) Photo Resolution (mm/px) Stereo-pair H-spacing Stereo-pair V-spacing
0.50 0.28 0.37
1 /
1.4 0.18 0.15 0.11
1.00 0.56 0.74
1 /
2.8 0.36 0.30 0.22
1.50 0.84 1.11
1 /
4.3 0.54 0.45 0.33
2.00 1.13 1.48
1 /
5.7 0.72 0.60 0.44
2.50 1.41 1.85
1 /
7.1 0.90 0.75 0.55
3.00 1.69 2.22
1 /
8.5 1.08 0.90 0.66
3.50 1.97 2.58
1 /
9.9 1.26 1.05 0.77
4.00 2.25 2.95
1 /
11.4 1.44 1.20 0.88
4.50 2.53 3.32
1 /
12.8 1.62 1.35 0.99
5.00 2.81 3.69
1 /
14.2 1.80 1.50 1.10
5.50 3.10 4.06
1 /
15.6 1.98 1.65 1.21
6.00 3.38 4.43
1 /
17.0 2.16 1.80 1.32
6.50 3.66 4.80
1 /
18.5 2.34 1.95 1.43
7.00 3.94 5.17
1 /
19.9 2.52 2.10 1.54
7.50 4.22 5.54
1 /
21.3 2.70 2.25 1.65
8.00 4.50 5.91
1 /
22.7 2.88 2.40 1.76
8.50 4.78 6.28
1 /
24.1 3.06 2.55 1.87
9.00 5.07 6.65
1 /
25.6 3.25 2.70 1.98
9.50 5.35 7.02
1 /
27.0 3.43 2.85 2.09
10.00 5.63 7.38
1 /
28.4 3.61 3.00 2.20
Table 1.2 Coverage, Resolution, and Scale Calculations for the Olympus C-750 4MP Digital Camera
Distance from Wall DV Coverage (m) DH Coverage (m) Photoscale (200dpi) Photo Resolution (mm/px) Stereo-pair H-spacing Stereo-pair V-spacing
0.50 0.35 0.46
1 /
1.6 0.22 0.15 0.11
1.00 0.70 0.91
1 /
3.1 0.45 0.30 0.22
1.50 1.05 1.37
1 /
4.7 0.67 0.45 0.33
2.00 1.39 1.83
1 /
6.3 0.89 0.60 0.44
2.50 1.74 2.29
1 /
7.9 1.12 0.75 0.55
3.00 2.09 2.74
1 /
9.4 1.34 0.90 0.66
3.50 2.44 3.20
1 /
11.0 1.56 1.05 0.77
4.00 2.79 3.66
1 /
12.6 1.79 1.20 0.88
4.50 3.14 4.11
1 /
14.2 2.01 1.35 0.99
5.00 3.48 4.57
1 /
15.7 2.23 1.50 1.10
5.50 3.83 5.03
1 /
17.3 2.46 1.65 1.21
6.00 4.18 5.49
1 /
18.9 2.68 1.80 1.32
6.50 4.53 5.94
1 /
20.5 2.90 1.95 1.43
7.00 4.88 6.40
1 /
22.0 3.13 2.10 1.54
7.50 5.23 6.86
1 /
23.6 3.35 2.25 1.65
8.00 5.57 7.31
1 /
25.2 3.57 2.40 1.76
8.50 5.92 7.77
1 /
26.7 3.79 2.55 1.87
9.00 6.27 8.23
1 /
28.3 4.02 2.70 1.98
9.50 6.62 8.69
1 /
29.9 4.24 2.85 2.09
10.00 6.97 9.14
1 /
31.5 4.46 3.00 2.20

Dot Grid Method

The area of a surface with square corners and straight edges on a map or photo can be found by multiplying the length of the surface by its width and then converting to real-world units using the scale of the image. What do you do if you need to find the area of an organic shape, or of a very complex geometric shape? One method that is widely used is the dot count using a dot grid.

dotgridA dot grid is a transparent sheet printed or drawn with dots arranged in a regular and even pattern such as a grid. When the dot grid is calibrated to the scale of the map or photo you are studying (finding the number of dots that falls in a known area), the area of an unknown surface can be found by laying the dot grid over the area, counting the number of dots that fall in and on the surface, and dividing that number by the number of calibrated dots per unit area. This gives you the area of the surface you are estimating in the units of your calibration.

As an example, let us suppose that I have calibrated my dot grid on an aerial photograph using a farmer’s field, bounded by section-line roads, as my known distance. How do I know the area of the farmer’s field? Often, fields are laid out along the US Public Land Survey System, with roads following the 1-mile edges of sections. A field bounded by such roads would be 1 square mile. These human features are obvious in aerial photos and on maps, and are very useful for establishing scale and for calibrating dot and square grids. Calibrating against the 1-square-mile field, suppose that I find that my dot grid is a size that there are 225 dots per square mile.

Now suppose that I have to find the surface area of a lake on the same photograph as the 1-square-mile field. Using the dot grid that I have just calibrated, I cover the lake with the dot grid and count 675 dots on the lake. The number of dots in my area-for-estimation (675), divided by my number of dots per unit area (225 dots per mile square) gives the lake an area of 3 square miles.

There are a few key points to using the dot grid:

1.) A dot count is a statistical method. It is important that you don’t line up the grid to get the best fit to count in your object. The whole point of the dot count is to see how many dots randomly fall within the area when the dot grid is placed in a random relationship to the area.

2.) When you are counting dots, each dot that falls completely within the area is given the weight of 1 full dot. Any dot that touches the side of the object, whether it is inside, outside, or one the line, gets a weight of 1 half dot. The number of whole dots plus the number of half dots (or the number of half dots divided by two, actually) is the total number of dots to be used in estimating the area of a surface.

3.) Once you have begun counting dots, don’t move the dot grid. If you do accidental move the grid, don’t just keep counting. You have to start over from the beginning.

I have created a dot grid for you to use in trying this method out. To use the dot grid, click on the image above to download “dotgrid1.pdf.” This file needs to be printed on plastic transparency, which is available for inkjet and laser printers, as well as copy machines for between $0.15 and $0.75.

Desirable Watershed Conditions

The capture, storage, and beneficial release of water.
The Watershed Manager’s Mantra

To achieve the watershed manager’s goal of capturing, storing, and releasing water in a safe and beneficial way, he must:

  1. Maintain vegetation on the site sufficient for absorbing the energy of precipitation (so raindrops hit leaves and dissipate their energy – raindrops splatter soil, but they also plug pore spaces, which lowers infiltration, and increases runoff, which means an increase in erosive potential.).  *Enhances infiltration
    • (organic soil has higher infiltration) *Vegetation delays movement of water toward and into drainage pathways.  1in rainfal on 1ac exerts 900ft-tons of energy.
    • Increasing velocity increases the capacity of water to do erosive work.
    • A slower raindrop has much more time to infiltrate.
    • The more water that plants absorb, the less water to run over the surface.  Less surface water equals less erosion.
  2. Maintain minimal drainage density.  The higher the drainage density, the better the drainage (more risk of flash flooding, water leaves the system quicker).  Achieve highest possible sinuosity.
  3. Optimize temporary water storage.