To see the action and student blogging from 2013, please visit the following sites linked below:

Week 1: 7th – 9th Grades
Week 2: 10th – 12th Grades 



Check out what the camp did last year below!

2012 Camp

Arrival day:

Today all GIS summer camp participants arrived at MOSS. After introducing each other and meeting some of our instructors, we learned some basics about the water cycle. Throughout this summer camp we will use geospatial tools and techniques to better understand and monitor some important components of the water cycle.

Day 1:

As the first day of GIS summer camp unfolded, the students learned about Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and orienteering. They tried to make a map from the skin of an orange only to find that it’s very difficult to make a flat representation of something round and that not every map represents land masses in the same way.

"Peeling the earth" activity

Before venturing into the field to find some temperature data loggers, the students did a geocache on MOSS campus. Each student was rewarded for finding the geocache with small treasures hidden within. After finding the geocache, the students devised methods of getting to the same spot without using a GPS unit or GPS coordinates. They used a combination of magnetic declination (the degrees on a compass) and counting steps. This is what they came up with:

Kung Fu Bunnies (Kerry’s Team):
Start at the base of the Lake Yurt ramp.
Take 36 steps at 324 degrees declination.


Rural Jurors (Ally’s Team):

Start at the base of the Lake Yurt ramp.
Take 36 steps at 324 degrees declination.


After so much practice, the students were more than ready to find and retrieve the temperature data loggers hidden throughout Ponderosa State Park by using their newly learned GPS and orientiering skills. They ventured forth and brought back oodles of temperature data logged by the data loggers over the last few weeks.

There was sooo much data that it took a while to sift through. In the end, each pair of students was able to manipulate the data to generate a graph of temperature over time. Below are two examples of graphs from this afternoon’s graphing extravaganza.

Comparison Graph

Tomorrow we will learn what this type of temperature data can tell us  – we will also learn about GIS (Geographic information systems) that allows us to store, manage, and map spatially explicit data such as the temperature data we collected today.

Day 2:

This morning we talked a little bit about the temperature figures we created yesterday and what they might tell us before we started to learn about GIS – Geographic Information Systems. Before we used the computers to work with a GIS software package, we drew some temperature, slope, and tree density maps of Ponderosa State Park on transparent sheets. We then overlayed the maps we created to figure out where the hypothetical species Mossacea could potentially grow in the park given the habitat requirements of Mossacea (needs warm temperatures, low tree density, and slopes between 5-10 degrees to grow).

Students working with GIS on their computers

Next we were ready to use the GIS software package ArcGIS Explorer – we learned how to import geospatial data into GIS, how to geotag pictures, and how to import GIS data layers such as a precipitation map of Idaho into GIS. Finally, we learned how to create a map with GIS.

Map showing MOSS in red and parts of Ponderosa State Park in yellow.

Locations of temperature data loggers we retrieved yesterday.

After working for several hours in the classroom, we were ready to go outside to map the location of different tree species such as Lodgepole pine and Aspen in Ponderosa State Park. We also took some biophysical measurements such as air temperature, soil moisture, and soil pH. We learned that certain tree species are better adapted to dry conditions than others. In between measuring, learning, and mapping things, we also had time to do some fun games and see the natural beauty of the park.

Back from the field we imported the tree locations and associated biophysical measurements into GIS and created another map.

Map of tree locations mapped by one group

Now we switched gears a little bit getting another refresher on the water cycle. In particular, we focused on transpiration, evaporation, surface runoff, infiltration, and groundwater recharge.

Learning some more about the water cycle

With this background in mind, we had the task to hypothesize how different surface covers (such as vegetation, bare soil, and concrete) may affect infiltration rates and surface runoff. After we wrote down our hypotheses, we were able to test them by using hydrological models (see image below) that were previously prepared by our field instructor Jenny – thanks Jenny!

Testing our hypotheses by using hydrological models

Some of the models, such as the concrete, showed a very fast response (there was a lot of surface runoff) whereas others (such as the model with dense vegetation) did not show any initially measurable response.

Tomorrow morning we will check again to see if there is any measurable response and determine if our hypotheses were supported. Then, we will learn how we can use remote sensing to remotely map different cover types (such as roads vs soil vs vegetation) as well as the amount of vegetation (e.g., sparse vs dense vegetation).

Day 3

First thing this morning, we took a look at our hydromodels to see if our hypotheses were correct. Some of the data we observed is shown in the figure below:

We saw for example that the bare soil model (“low” in the figure) had more surface runoff than vegetated models (“medium” and “high” in the figure).

Next, we learned some basics about optical remote sensing before we started to work through a remote sensing tutorial on our computers. The tutorial taught us how to use the open-source image processing software package MultiSpec to calculate NDVI for Ponderosa State Park. The NDVI or Normalized Difference Vegetation Index is a spectral index used by remote sensing folks to map vegetation cover or the “amount of green stuff”.

NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) image of Ponderosa State Park and surrounding area

We also learned how to use MultiSpec to conduct a supervised classification – a method used by remote sensing analysts to map land cover types such as vegetation, residential, or bare soil. While working through the tutorial we again had some time to play some fun games outside.

Next, we acquired our own aerial imagery of the hydromodels by using the MOSS drone – check out the movie below!!!


Flying the MOSS drone - students acquire their own aerial image

After we acquired our own aerial imagery of the hydromodels with the MOSS drone, we conducted a supervised classification to map the cover type of the hydromodels.

 Next we discussed how remotely sensed information of cover type (e.g., bare soil vs residential vs vegetation) and NDVI (amount of “green stuff” or vegetation density) can be used by land managers to make more informed and better decisions. Finally, we started to think about research questions for our research projects tomorrow. Tomorrow, we will spend all day in the field conducting our research projects. Stay tuned …

Day 4

Today the students designed and conducted their own research projects in Ponderosa State Park. All groups included a geospatial component in their project to put into practice all they have learned this week. Here are some brief descriptions of the students’ research projects:

Tree Sniffing Banditos (Matt’s Team)

These gentlemen posed the question, “Do soil characteristics affect the smell of Ponderosa pine trees?” They located and mapped Ponderosa pine trees throughout the park. At each tree, the boys sniffed away. (For those of you who are not familiar with Ponderosa pine trees, their sap smells like vanilla, butterscotch, caramel, or sugar cookies depending upon who is doing the smelling.) After smelling each tree, the boys tested various biophysical characteristics (pH, temperature, and moisture content) of the soil near the tree. We shall see tomorrow whether their data suggests a correlation between tree smell and soil characteristics.


Tree Sniffing Banditos next to a Ponderosa pine tree

While conducting their research, the Tree Sniffing Banditos learned that there are different surficial geologic zones that dictate soil characteristics and that Ponderosa pine trees tend not to grow in really wet areas like the Meadow Marsh. They also found that individual Ponderosa pine trees varied in smell. Some, Max claims, even smelled like “strawberry milk, not actual strawberries.”

Kung Fu Bunnies (Kerry’s Team)

This team investigated whether dissolved oxygen in the water of Payette Lake varied by location. They hopped in canoes and paddled all over Payette Lake. Approximately every 10 minutes, they tested the dissolved oxygen content of the water and recorded the coordinates of the location with a GPS. Once they had collected several hours worth of data, they created a table of their data in Microsoft Excel. They then used the table to make a map of their data in ArcGIS Explorer. The team has yet to draw conclusions, so stay tuned for more information.

Kung Fu Bunnies getting ready to collect data

Kung Fu Bunnies cease paddling momentarily to collect data

In conducting their experiment, the Kung Fu Bunnies learned that it is very important to know how your equipment functions, i.e. the sensor must be uncovered to take a reading.

 Rural Jurors (Ally’s Team)

During the first field day, the Rural Jurors noticed a large tree that had blown over in Ponderosa State Park near the Lily Marsh. This tree helped generate their research question. They investigated whether tree falls are correlated with certain soil types. To begin, the team ventured into Ponderosa State Park to look for fallen trees. At each fallen tree they recorded tree species and location (GPS coordinates). In addition, the team took soil samples at each location. They plan to determine soil type and check their findings by overlaying a map of soil types onto their map of fallen trees. Check back tomorrow to see their results.

Fallen tree in Ponderosa State Park


The Rural Jurors try to identify the species of fallen trees in Ponderosa State Park

After successfully designing their research projects, collecting data, and battling copious amounts of mosquitoes all the teams earned a much needed break. The remainder of the day was spent enjoying the great outdoors and more. Some of the students made models of different ecosystems to see which would be more prone to forest fire, which is currently a hot topic in the west. Other students had splash wars in the canoes and took a dip in the lake. The ladies of the camp even got together and modified their camp shirts so that they could wear the GIS logo on the front instead of the back. Check out the photos below!

Create your own monster race


Students burn their ecosystem models to determine forest fire susceptibility

Canoe splash wars on Payette Lake


The ladies of the camp modify their GIS t-shirts

Check back tomorrow to see what the students conclude from their research projects.

Final Day!

Today the students culminated everything they learned for the week in a final presentation of their research projects. These were presented in front of their peers and parents. All students filled out presentation evaluations. The evaluations were designed to allow the students to provide each other with feedback on the overall quality of the presentation as well as the validity of the scientific principles and process used in developing the experiment. Everyone did a wonderful job designing and presenting their experiments. If you are interested in the findings, please watch the YouTube videos of each presentation shown below.

Kung Fu Bunnies’ Presentation

Tree Sniffing Banditos’ Presentation

Rural Jurors’ Presentation
















5 thoughts on “AL @ MOSS

  1. That was some awesome work that the teams carried out. I can’t wait to see the final projects on Friday. Should I bring some cookies or cupcakes? Or any goodies?

  2. Wow! We are impressed at all of the work you’re doing to make science into tools everyone can use. It even looks like everyone is having FUN while WORKING! Love it 🙂 Thanks, MOSS!

  3. The pictures of your work and of you having fun are great. We are very excited to see your projects and our boys tomorrow.

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