2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 212-6
Presentation Time: 10:15 AM

EXPERIENCE-BASED LEARNING IN THE ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES:  BUILDING AN AUTOMATED WEATHER STATION IN GARIBALDI PROVINCIAL PARK, BRITISH COLUMBIA


HEILMAN, Tyler Jeffrey, Quest University Canada, 3200 University Boulevard, Squamish, BC V8B 0N8, Canada and ASHBAUGH, Court, Quest University Canada, Squamish, BC V8B 0N8, Canada, tjheilman@questu.ca

As the human impact on the environment increases, understanding environmental change and processes becomes more important. Preparing students of the environmental sciences with practical skills ensures a proficient work force that will further this knowledge. In an undergraduate setting, self-directed projects that involve application of theoretical concepts to real-life situations provide a platform for learning these practical skills, in addition to contributing to the progression of the larger field of study. Here, I provide a first-hand account of the experience of gaining a marketable skillset through an undergraduate project.

My undergraduate project is creating an automated weather station in Garibaldi Provincial Park, British Columbia. The process has involved many of the challenges of larger projects found in work situations, including “soft skills” and technical expertise. I have acquired the “soft skills” necessary to do science in the public realm through optimizing project direction according the specific interests of the parties involved (government agencies including First Nations), overcoming political obstacles, and gathering public support for project funding. I garnered technical expertise specific to weather station construction and data collection including Arduino © microcontroller programming, basic digital and analog electronics, instrument calibration and weatherproofing, radio communication, and site optimization for the completed device.

While this project has resulted in the development of practical skillsets, the ultimate goal is to provide data for the improvement of regional weather predictions – both long term and short term. The data are made available to BC Parks and the Meteorological Service of Canada, and it is a goal for the data be accessible real-time on a website made for the station.

Beyond being able to apply these skills to future employment, this experience has allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the process of meteorological data collection and allows me to understand how a dataset is collected, providing me the foundation to explore the data that the station is collecting in a much more sophisticated manner.