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Waterborne Merges Our Field Study Monitoring Capabilities with Advanced Data Solutions, Creating Novel WebTool

Posted on January 18, 2021

In response to the growing needs of our clients, Waterborne data scientists recently saw an opportunity to develop a Monitoring WebTool that aids in management decisions related to modeling, field investigations, and stewardship activities. 

Our WebTool combines monitoring data with a spatial component that can be rendered on the fly from GIS mapping data, with basic statistical outputs.  The interface provides the end user with a number of options for filtering the data, based on location or compound of interest.  By integrating field study data and national datasets that have been scrubbed by our scientist, users are given an in-depth view of their product chemistry within the United States. 

Our WebTool allows for large sets of monitoring data to be spatially and tabularly contextualized, which provides a multitude of beneficial options for our clients.  Product use and chemical presence identified by location help to inform regulatory decisions and the need for any further exposure modeling work or additional field studies. The tool allows for faster identification of potentially vulnerable areas and provides value in time and cost savings associated with delays in the decision-making process.

Stewardship managers can use the tool directly with growers to identify locations for targeting stewardship activities.  The data can also be combined with the ‘boots on the ground’ approaches so that end users can examine data trends over a given timeframe and view the impacts of stewardship activities in the watersheds.  When best management practices and other measures are put in place such as label changes, for example, we can examine how the changes are reflected in the monitoring data.  Our Monitoring WebTool literally puts these answers at the fingertips of our clients in an easy-to-use visual presentation. 

The application of GIS is not a completely novel approach and many spatial tools have been used to generate static images (e.g., maps) that are not easily updated with new data.  Since this tool is web-based, updated data are provided in real time, which provides our clients with an independent decision-making tool. Our data scientists acknowledge that this is the future direction of data sources with the implementation of machine learning.  This gives us the ability to work with our clients in the development of customized features and filters to address specific higher-tier data needs. 

To discuss your specific monitoring needs and how our WebTool can provide customized assistance to your organization, please contact Zack Stone (stonez@waterborne-env.com) with questions or comments.

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A Focus on Field Study Staff Training

Posted on January 18, 2021

Although the implications of a global pandemic certainly impacted some of our field study activities, we made wise use of our time by expanding training across our field studies team. Since we work in a regulated industry, keeping up on Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) training is imperative to ensure that defined processes and standards of quality are being followed and maintained, even when not in the field.  To that end, our Field Studies team buckled down on the following training:

First Aid. As anyone who has worked in the field knows, there are times when we are miles away from the nearest person, much less a medical facility. With this in mind, our Field Studies team reviewed our First Aid protocols and any team member who needed it completed a First Aid Certification program.

Technology. Software training is also critical to make sure our staff are up-to-date on the latest and greatest technologies. Our field studies staff took part in a variety of software training that has included Esri ArcGIS Desktop, ArcGIS Pro, and Basic Datalogger/Loggernet.

Project Management. Our client projects are always top of mind, and finding better ways to manage their processes while mentoring our up-and-coming staff members is part of our culture. 2020 provided us with an outstanding opportunity to complete internal project management courses.

With so many of our staff members trained in such diverse areas, we’re certainly looking forward to the 2021 upcoming field season!

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Application of Bathymetry and Hydroacoustic Technology

Posted on January 18, 2021

Bathym… what?! You read correctly. Bathymetry, a form of hydroacoustics, may seem like a strange word but it represents a common field study measurement of water depth,  typically in oceans, seas or lakes.  Using echolocation, where sound waves are sent out and returned, bathymetry surveys are used to map out beds of bodies of water to establish depth and any underwater features (i.e., underwater canyons, the mid-Atlantic Ridge, underwater volcanoes).

Typically with bathymetry, equipment is attached to a survey boat and the boat drives across the area to be surveyed. That equipment uses echolocation to measure the time it takes the sound waves to travel first from, then back to the boat. From that measurement the depth can be determined.

Waterborne first acquired Bathymetry technology in 2014 with the primary intention of using it for conducting flow measurements on our stream and large river monitoring stations. Since then, we have used it to conduct bathymetric surveys in ponds, perform velocity profiling in streams, and conduct cross-sectional surveys. Recently, Waterborne conducted a study where an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) was used for a bathymetric survey in a pond. 

In our pond study, ADCP was used in conjunction with a GPS receiver mounted in a tethered boat.  The ADCP collected depth data with three separate acoustic beams that were averaged to resolve a single depth point via software at a rate of several times a second.  A separate software suite was then used to connect the depth data back to its associated GPS location.  Repeated surveys were then referenced to a common elevation datum, which helped us determine sedimentation and erosion patterns.

We’ve found that the hydroacoustic science technology, including bathymetry has enormous potential. For example, we’ve deployed it to collect surrogate datasets for constituents such as suspended sediment and/or other constituents that attach themselves to sediment (i.e. certain pesticides and nutrients). With this technology at our disposal, our team has the ability to investigate characteristics of waterbodies in many different ways. The future is looking bright for this science with a funny name!

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Novel Approaches in the Assessment of Agricultural Tile-Drain Chemical Transport

Posted on January 18, 2021

Applying creative approaches to overcome the innate hurdles associated with complex study designs is another day at the office for the experts on our field studies team. Never was this more true than when one of our clients asked for help in satisfying the new EPA goals surrounding the effects of nutrient transport outlet water. Conventional study work would have unnecessarily wasted precious time and resources and was certainly not in our client’s best interest.

Excess nutrient transport from agricultural settings have contributed to a hypoxic zone in the Mississippi River basin and Gulf of Mexico, which, in turn led the EPA to form the Hypoxia Task Force with a goal to reduce the size of the hypoxic zone to less than 5,000 km2 by 2035. The Task Force also has an interim goal of a 20% reduction of nitrogen and phosphorus loading by 2025. Unsurprisingly, these environmental goals have created an urgent need for studies to better understand nutrient transport in agricultural landscapes.

At the client’s request, a Waterborne team led by our Senior Agricultural Engineer Greg Goodwin established a large-scale field study to observe the effects of treatments on the nitrate-nitrogen concentration in outlet water of a tile-drain corn and soy rotated field. The study design included 37 discrete tile monitoring stations, making for quite a large monitoring effort! Our team went to work to evaluate possible monitoring approaches that could be employed in this case. It didn’t take long to realize that a conventional water sampling approach with individual samples and physical sample collection would waste precious study resources in time and cost. A novel approach was certainly needed in this case!

After careful consideration of possible approaches, the team landed on an automated pass-through study design. This approach made use of dataloggers controlling water-level sensors and pumps at each of the 37 separate tiles. The team also set up two analysis stations capable of radio-communicating with the dataloggers. This setup allowed for individual tile station pumps to push water samples to the appropriate analysis station where it was then fed over a nitrate sensor set to automatically read and store sample results. The analysis stations were also equipped with full weather stations and tipping-bucket rain gauges.  Data was transmitted via cellular modem and accessible to the project team in real-time. 

Application of this automatic approach drastically improved sampling frequencies and gave the team the ability to collect data that wouldn’t have been feasible collecting individual physical water samples, including back-to-back flow events without the need for site visits. Improvement of the sampling frequency allowed our data scientists to see trends that we may not have otherwise captured with more infrequent sampling intervals. The approach also decreased time and costs associated with manual labor, sample transport, and analysis. The real-time availability of the analyte data helped the project team make faster study decisions.

In addition to the automated approach applied to this study, this design allowed for the use of sophisticated data analysis techniques. We used Aquarius as a means to identify and remove erroneous measurements using USGS-approved processes. This design also allowed us to apply a correlation matrix to each of the tiles and then used Pearson’s correlation coefficients to identify stronger and weaker correlation of tile flow measurements to each other. These correlations were then used to select the tiles for assignment of one of four application rates used in the study. Ultimately, the increase of replicates allowable by the automated design offered us a unique statistical power in this study to assign treatments from a baseline comparison of replicate responses. We’re continuously working to bring our clients options for novel study designs, whether it be in the form of new equipment, automated processes, out-of-the-box solutions, or assessment of statistical power within a study. If you have any questions of how a novel field study design could help with your specific needs, please feel free to contact Greg Goodwin at goodwing@waterborne-env.com.

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Getting to Know Waterborne’s Travis Thompson

Posted on January 18, 2021

If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting or working with Travis, we’d like to formally introduce you to this key member of our field studies team. Travis Thompson, or “Thompson,” as he’s most commonly referred to within the Waterborne team, has been with us for about four years. He joined the company with a wide range of experience in biological and environmental work, and he has been an asset to the company ever since, from setting up monitoring stations to directing studies.

As a marine veteran, Thompson is cool, calm and collected under pressure.  He served in the Marine Corps Reserves from 2006 to 2011 while pursuing his undergraduate degree in biology. He served a tour in Iraq in 2009 as an infantry rifleman.

Thompson studied environmental science in graduate school, obtaining a Masters degree with an emphasis on freshwater ecology. While still in graduate school, he worked as a Hydrologic Technician at the Missouri Water Science Center, and worked with wildlife as a fun side-gig. Thompson looked back on this time fondly: “it was exhausting but I loved it… probably what I loved most about it was being out at a time of day when there were no other people out—so quiet, out in the woods.”

After completing his masters, Thompson worked for the Columbia Environmental Research Center (CERC) as a fish biologist and eventual crew leader on studies in carp population control, working on experiments with sound and natural chemical compounds on Asian Carp. Then, wanting to grow in study management and explore the agricultural domain, Thompson joined the Waterborne team as a Biological Scientist in March of 2017. He has since been a crucial part of our terrestrial field and subaquatic dissipation studies. He has played a consistent role in creating and monitoring stations that are used in studies all across the U.S., managing various stages of field projects, and communicating with our contract partners and sponsors.  Thompson recently became Study Director on several Terrestrial Field Dissipation (TFD) Studies.

When he isn’t putting together or taking apart monitoring stations and writing reports for Waterborne, Thompson spends his time with his family and enjoying the outdoors. His wife, kids, and pets are all sources of great joy in his life. “Two kids, two dogs, and two cats…two of everything except wives,” Thompson joked. He always speaks of his wife, daughter, and son in the highest regard.

It’s fair to say that all of Thompson’s spare time is spent in the outdoors. Be it hunting, fishing, or even the occasional trapping, Thompson loves to interact with nature on every level. His enjoyment and passion for the outdoors is part of what fuels the dedication he shows in his field study work.

We’re thrilled for our clients to get to know Thompson as well as we do. All around him quickly find out that his warm, caring personality creates a welcoming team environment for anyone who works with him.

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Waterborne and the Case of The Determined Rodent

Posted on January 15, 2021

In the summer of 2018, we on the Waterborne’s field team found ourselves facing an unprecedented hurdle: someone had built a home, made of mud and sticks smack in the middle of our testing zone. Unbeknownst to us, one of our creek monitoring sites had gained a new resident in the form of one large (and very determined) beaver. Over the weeks we became well-acquainted with our furry friend’s work as he made a point of blocking off the stream just a little before our monitoring equipment, making it impossible for the intake lines to get enough water for proper sampling. The field team that first found the issue promptly documented and then broke apart the dam; a brief but intense labor given the size of the logs. Their efforts were in vain as the dam was back the following week.

As scientists we know that beavers build dams for shelter and to stop the sound of rushing water, which is apparently one of the biggest triggers urging them to build. But, after removing the same complex structure multiple times, it was hard for us not to take the whole dam thing personally. We did everything we could to discourage the behavior—breaking the dam upon every visit—but there it was, in its full mud and stick glory, with each subsequent visit. After some weeks of this back and forth, we finally conceded defeat and called in a trapper to contain the culprit.

In a matter of days the beaver had been successfully trapped. Our nemesis turned out to be an especially large male who we think was a bachelor building up his own bachelor pad. Fortunately he seemed to have worked alone as no other beavers were ever spotted at the site, and the rest of the summer’s sampling went by without other animal constructions. As time passed and the sting of being beaten by a rodent lessened, it became a humorous quip passed on to new team members when exchanging field work stories. A story that we thought was in our past…

That’s right, at the last off-season visit to the same site, a new beaver dam was found. If we’re lucky it’s a late summer phenomenon that will be long abandoned before sampling season next year. Or it could very well be the start of round two between the Waterborne sampling team and an overly determined animal. For our egos’ sake, let’s hope for the former!

While this has become a funny story among our field team, it also exemplifies the unpredictability of the challenges we face in the field. In this case, we could even see the effect of the beaver dam in our stream depth data. We have no shortage of stories! With each unique challenge our team adds to our collective scientific knowledge: capturing photos for records, assessing the impact on our study, and flexing our creative muscle to overcome the challenge at hand. And saving the best for when we need a good chuckle.

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Waterborne Environmental Adds Field Volatility Monitoring to Our Service Lineup

Posted on January 13, 2021

Providing high-quality services that solve our clients’ regulatory needs is always at the top of our minds here at Waterborne Environmental, which is why we’re so pleased to announce the addition of Field Volatility Monitoring to our service line.

This new Waterborne service stems from our acquisition of Paragon Research Services’s volatility monitoring equipment and SOPs. Aaron Rotondaro, Paragon’s founder, has joined Waterborne’s team as a Senior Advisor. 

Since 2006, Paragon has been the premier company conducting volatility monitoring, and bringing its services in-house will allow Waterborne to further diversify our service offerings for field studies. 

Waterborne has had a long-standing and successful working relationship with Aaron and we hope you’ll join us in welcoming him to our family. We look forward to including the Field Volatility Monitoring Services alongside our established list of Field Study Services, thereby expanding our in-house expertise within this field. 

We will also use this expertise to advance modeling of volatile chemicals from soil and water and near-field and long-distance air dispersion for human, endangered species, and pollinator risk assessments. Any questions about our Field Volatility Monitoring Services may be directed to Greg Goodwin, our Senior Agricultural Engineer at goodwing@waterborne-env.com. As always, our clients can rely on our team to deliver expert guideline and customized studies in field measurement for residues in soil, water, air, foliage, and pollen & nectar. 

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An Engineer Learns to Work Within a COVID-19 World

Posted on December 15, 2020

Up until March 2020, most of us were working in an office building with our own office or cubicle. A collaborative team environment with space to focus when needed. It now feels like a dream to think back on times gathered around the water cooler with my colleagues and discuss sports like the “Masters” or the NCAA March Madness. All of that came to an understandable but still screeching halt once the pandemic started. As I’m writing this, the Masters is being played (in November, not April. November!! Forgive me, but is it really the Masters without the azaleas and roaring crowds? I think not) and I’m working from home. 

Working from home isn’t that unusual for some of us in the consulting world. In the past, the occasional work-from-home day typically meant peace, quiet, and productivity. Concentrating on client projects was a cinch in those heady, pre-COVID-19 days. Today, however, the home-front looks bit different for all of us. Many are sharing that same space with kids and spouses—and all the noise and constraints they bring. Parents are balancing the changing needs of remote or hybrid school schedules. Lunch, previously a casual (and somewhat indulgent) work from home experience, has now become fixed and PB&J-centered. 

I’ve chosen to look at 2020 as an opportunity for us all to develop our professional skills in a direction previously untapped: focus amongst extreme chaos and finding humor within the unexpected and frustrating. Without these skills could we survive hourly rollercoaster of internet connectivity? Instead, we smile when we get too see kids and pets popping up in our virtual meetings, grateful for the closer glimpse into each other’s lives.

Despite the struggles, this has overall been a personally productive year. I am now completely proficient in pressing the mute and no video buttons on several software platforms (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GotoMeeting, etc.). The phrase of the year has been “You’re still on mute”. I am much more familiar with my colleagues and clients’ casual looks and have enjoyed seeing them in their home environments. I’ve learned not to take the supply of toilet paper in the office restrooms for granted. And with less laundry and no professional dress requirements, I’m free to apply that extra personal grooming time to work. Sweatpants for me, more time for my projects; it’s a win-win!

2020 has certainly been an unusual year and I dearly miss seeing my clients and spending time with my colleagues in-person. I even long for the days when we’d complain about the last person not refilling the office coffee pot or replacing the water jug. But while it’s taken an adjustment, I can take comfort in the fact that the reason I didn’t win the 2020 March Madness pool was because the tournament was cancelled, and not because of my optimism in Purdue going to the finals!

Have I mentioned that I’m looking forward to the New Year?

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Our Co-Founder Looks Back on 2020; and a Sneak Peek of Waterborne 2021

Posted on December 15, 2020

2020 was a tough year for us all— individuals, families, and businesses—and impacted lives around the globe. Waterborne, with our team of scientists prepped and ready to travel to client sites both near and far at the beginning of the year, found itself in unprecedented territory once COVID-19 showed up. 

As expected, our field studies were mostly suspended because of the pandemic. We didn’t sit idle and avoided furloughs and layoffs plaguing other companies. Our staff made good use of the time to catch up on study reports, inventorying and organizing our field equipment, skill development, and improving our internal operating model. 

We also enjoyed the opportunity to dream about the future, design it, and start building it. Today, Waterborne offers technologies and  services both within and far beyond our traditional focus. We can’t wait to share with you what we’re doing.  You’ll begin seeing:

There is a saying, “when life serves you lemons, make lemonade.”  In our case, we’re starting 2021 stronger than we would have been otherwise.

I would like to pause and acknowledge those in the company today, and those no longer with us, for their contributions in our evolution to where we are today.  It is an exciting time to be at Waterborne, and a good time for me to post that we’re always looking to hire, or partner with others who share our passion and values.  

Sincerely,

Marty Williams

Co-founder, Waterborne Environmental

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Waterborne Welcomes Brenna Kent to Our Data Solutions Team

Posted on December 15, 2020

Waterborne Environmental’s data solutions team is stronger than ever thanks to an impressive new addition: data analyst, Brenna Kent, who boasts a diverse expertise in data collection and analysis with an emphasis on R scripting and programming with SQL, Python and Java. 

Brenna’s pre-Waterborne experience could be described as out of this world. She holds a Master’s degree in Bioinformatics at Virginia Commonwealth University and was a part of the NASA Pandora Project, where she collaborated with NASA team members to compile and analyze atmospheric data and developed R functions for result visualizations. Her data analysis experience also extends to genetic and pharmaceutical fields, through sequence analysis with BioNumerics software and an internship at Pharmaceutical Product Development. 

At Waterborne, Brenna has been busily applying her experience to our down-the-drain modeling work through iStreem with Raghu Vamshi as well as ecological modeling projects with Amelie Schmolke. She has additional applied her knowledge to our internal development and delivery of advanced, customized web-based tools for data interpretation and artificial intelligence as it applies to data collection and processing. Brenna will continue to play a key role in these exciting advances within our data solution capabilities.  

Known for her love of hiking and the great outdoors, Brenna can often be found hiking along Virginia’s scenic trails. That is, when she’s not reading science fiction or baking sweet treats. While COVID-19 restrictions prevent us from sharing desserts, we have all enjoyed working with Brenna and look forward to future collaborations!

If you’re interested in Waterborne’s data solutions work, please contact Gerco Hoogeweg at hoogewegg@waterborne-env.com.

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