Big Data Spotlight: Oregon Scientists Publish Novel Watershed Findings

Oregon State University Echohydrologist Carlos Ochoas has spent his career examining how watersheds and riparian systems work and ways to improve their quality. This illustration shows an example location of multiple soil, water, and vegetation monitoring stations he and his team installed along the Oak Creek watershed, near Corvallis, Oregon, with the goal of evaluating land use-environment relationships in various agroecologic settings. Streamflow and water quality parameters such as nutrient loads and stream temperature are monitored along Oak Creek, from the headwaters, through agricultural fields and urban settings. Studies on how multi-prong practices (e.g., irrigation, grazing, conservation) effect soil, water, and vegetation are conducted in pastures and riparian areas.  

This piece was written by: Taruni Manam, Research Experience for High School Students, West Hub Intern, San Diego Supercomputer Center, UC San Diego –

Researchers from Oregon State University recently published their latest findings regarding Stream Temperature and Environment Relationships in a Semiarid Riparian Corridor in the Land journal. Specifically, OSU Ecohydrology Professor Carlos Ochoa led a team that installed stream and air temperature sensors in both open and closed canopy areas along a semiarid riparian corridor in north central Oregon. After analyzing collected data, stream temperatures were found to be similar, irrespective of the amount of vegetation cover near each sensor.  Stream temperature along the entire corridor followed a similar seasonal pattern to air temperature. Subsurface flow contributions from an intermittent tributary helped enhance stream temperature variability at the junction of the perennial and intermittent streams, potentially creating cooler temperature microclimate conditions during the hot summer months.

“This study was one of several long-term, watershed-scale projects that we have been working on, to better understand the connections between ecohydrological processes and human interactions in this changing climate,” said Ochoa. “We used a systems approach, treating Earth as a combination of many subsystems, to enhance the base watershed-riparian function so that we can obtain the most accurate data for our studies.”

Another of Ochoa’s study areas is located in eastern Oregon. The Watershed-Riparian project was created to enhance ecological resilience and production of rangeland watershed-riparian systems. The team has been working to provide an array of information to improve land-management practices and inform policy having to do with ecohydrology by collecting and sharing large datasets including rain, temperature, humidity, wind speed and soil moisture. 

Meanwhile, work in central Oregon is focused on the Juniper Paired-Watershed project, which has been designed to investigate the ecohydrologic response of land management practices such as the removal of juniper trees.  Specifically, Ochoa said that this project has three main objectives: characterize plant-soil-water interactions in juniper removed and unremoved watersheds, determine the connectivity of upland watersheds and downstream valleys, and determine reestablishment effects of ecological and hydrological functions after ten years of treatment. Throughout the project, hydrological data has been, and is continued to be, collected through many instruments: weather stations, flumes, groundwater wells, soil moisture and tree transpiration sensors. 

“These projects bring together a multitude of data streams in an effort to understand very complex systems,” said Sarah Stone, West Hub co-PI. “It is through these types of efforts that we gain insight into ecosystem functionality and connectivity which is critical to developing best practices for management.”

About the West Big Data Innovation Hub: 

The West Big Data Innovation Hub is one of four regional hubs funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to build and strengthen strategic partnerships across industry, academia, nonprofits, and government. The West Hub community aims to catalyze and scale data science for societal needs – connecting research, education, and practice in thematic areas such as natural resources and hazards, metro data science, health, and data-enabled discovery and learning. Coordinated by UC Berkeley’s Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society, the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and the University of Washington, the West Hub region includes contributors and data enthusiasts from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and a global network of partners.

Related Links:

West Big Data Innovation Hub: westbigdatahub.org

National Science Foundation: www.nsf.gov/

The Big Data Innovation Hubs: bigdatahubs.org