Innovation Center

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Projects

FY 2017 Funded Proposals

Development of new low-cost seismometers from geophones

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Collaborating PI’s & Organizations:
Contact: Stephen DeLong, USGS Earthquake Science Center sdelong@usgs.gov
Andrew Wickert, University of Minnesota
Chad Sandell, University of Minnesota
Adam Ringler USGS Albuquerque Seismological Laboratory
John R. Evans, USGS Earthquake Science Center

The problem and the opportunity:

Broadband seismometers can measure depth to bedrock, solid Earth structure, bedload sediment transport, landslides, and earthquakes. They would be a standard tool for field mappers and for permanent river and hillslope monitoring stations, except for their prohibitive cost, which results both from the highly sensitive accelerometers and the high frequency (>200 Hz) data loggers that are required. A Stanford University thesis project from 2001 proposed and successfully prototyped a method to convert a standard geophone and its housing into a single axis of a broadband seismometer. The method involved a set of metal plates and a circuit to change the output measurement from a voltage – proportional to velocity – into a capacitance-based measurement that provided position of the geophone proof mass. By measuring the position as opposed to its derivative, much lower frequency signals can be observed, allowing for the observation of teleseisms and bringing the geophone’s resolution into the same spectral range that is required to observe landslides and bedload transport and to measure depth to bedrock through spectral analysis of ambient noise. We propose to (1) recreate and improve upon the capacitive geophone seismometer and its associated signal processing circuitry, and (2) to make this design production-ready by preparing circuit boards for mass production and defining and testing the tooling and shaping required for high-quality capacitive electrodes. We will build a field-ready system based around this hardware by (3) modifying our existing open-source “ALog” data logger that we will modify and optimize for high-frequency field data acquisition. We will test the resultant instrument alongside a conventional broadband seismometer to measure depth to bedrock (a key component in geologic and water resources mapping in formerly glaciated environments), sediment transport in rivers, and general seismic acquisitions.

Overall Goal or MVP (minimum viable product):

A prototype triple-geophone 3-axis seismometer, and a redesigned open-source data logger that can acquire readings with a frequency of >200 Hz.


QCam – Non-contact River Bathymetry, Area, Velocity, and Discharge Sensor: Phase 1: FluidCam + CCW Radar

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Collaborating PI’s & Organizations:
John Fulton, USGS, Colorado Water Science Center, jwfulton@usgs.gov
Ved Chirayath, NASA Ames Laboratory for Advanced Sensing, Earth Sciences Division
Skye Corbett, USGS, Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center
Jeff Sloan, USGS, Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center
Wolfram Sommer, Sommer Messtechnik, Sommer Messtechnik

The problem and the opportunity:

Instrumentation (mechanical current meters and hydroacoustics) and methods for computing discharge have evolved; however, we are still constrained to place instruments in rivers to measure stage, area, and velocity.

This research relies on non-contact sensors and algorithms to measure channel and river metrics needed to compute discharge.  Two (2) sensors will be deployed from an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) and include:  (1) FluidCam imaging system for measuring bathymetry (https://www.nasa.gov/ames/las/fluidcam-suas-imaging-system) and (2) Coherent, Continuous-wave Surface-velocity (CCW) Radars for measuring water- surface velocities. FluidCam is a passive, portable imaging system for remote sensing applications.  It comes with a fully integrated onboard computing system to collect and process channel bathymetry utilizing a theoretical model and algorithm called Fluid Lensing. If the schedule permits and the sensor is available, MiDAR (Multi-spectral Detection, Active Reflectance, https://www.nasa.gov/ames/las/midar-active-multispectral-imaging), may be flown concurrent with FluidCam. It is a next-generation, real-time, multispectral, active sensor for underwater imaging. MEaSuRE (Monitoring Extreme Streamflows in flashy or REmote basins) is an active sensor, which relies on a CCW radar to measure surface-water velocities and uses an efficient computational algorithm derived from Information Entropy to translate surface-velocity data into a mean-channel velocity. River discharge is computed using the reach-based area provided from FluidCam and the mean-channel velocity derived from MEaSuRE. Flights will be collocated at a USGS streamgage to provide truth data of stage, area (bathymetry and width), velocity, and discharge.

Overall Goal or MVP (minimum viable product):

We propose to conduct the first-ever systematic measurements of reach-based discharge from a UAS platform without placing instrumentation in a river.


Integrating Novel DNA Sampling and Detection Technologies at USGS Streamgaging Stations: Naegleria fowleri as Proof of Concept

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Collaborating PI’s & Organizations: 
Contact: Elliott P. Barnhart, USGS, epbarnhart@usgs.gov;                    
Stacy Kinsey and Peter Wright, USGS, WY-MT Water Science Center Christopher Merkes, USGS, Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center Matthew Laramie, USGS, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center : James Birch, Kevan Yamahara and Chris Scholin, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute                            Jennifer Murphy, Mia Catharine Mattioli and Amy Kahler, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention                     

The problem and the opportunity:

There is an urgent need for new technology that can quickly detect deadly pathogens and early invasions of invasive species in the field so control measures can be enacted before deaths and extensive damages occur. We plan to investigate how new water sampling and DNA detection technologies could be integrated, for the first time, at USGS streamgaging stations. If validated, these technologies would provide field‐based tools for Federal, State, private and local agencies interested in monitoring and managing microbial pathogens, harmful algal blooms, invasive species (i.e. zebra and quagga mussels) and endangered species. 

Overall Goal or MVP (minimum viable product):

Evaluate the integration and efficiency of new water sampling and DNA detection technologies at USGS streamgaging stations.


Development of a field-portable helium isotope detector for continuous monitoring of active volcanoes

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Collaborating PI’s & Organizations: 
Shaul Hurwitz shaulh@usgs.gov
Jennifer L. Lewicki, USGS, National Research Program  
William C. Evans, USGS, National Research Program
Deborah Bergfeld, USGS, Volcano Science Center
Jacob B. Lowenstern, USGS, Volcano Science Center
Andrew G. Hunt, USGS, Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center
Peter J. Kelly, USGS, Volcano Science Center
Gary M. McMurtry and Luis Dasilveira, Pace Tech Hawaii
James Blessing, MKS Instruments, Inc.

The problem and the opportunity:

The injection of magma into subvolcanic reservoirs is one of the most significant triggers of volcanic eruptions. It is often manifested by an increase in the helium isotope ratio (3He/4He) measured in discharged gases. Temporal variations of 3He/4He in volcanic gases were shown to precede unrest episodes and/or eruptions in several volcanoes worldwide. However, temporal correlations were demonstrated only after the eruption episodes, mainly because of the lack of real-time continuous data and the significant amount of resources required to acquire the data.

Currently, to obtain a single 3He/4He value requires travel to an active volcano for sampling followed by laboratory analysis; an expensive process that often takes weeks to months. A field-portable instrument to monitor 3He/4He variations must overcome various analytical hurdles and be small, compact, lightweight and low in power consumption. We plan to develop an instrument that will consist of two compact mass spectrometers, an ion trap and a frequency-modified quadrupole mass spectrometer. We plan to field test the new instrument on the flanks of Mammoth Mountain volcano in eastern California where 3He/4He variations were observed after seismic swarms associated with injection of basaltic magma. We envision that a successful development and demonstration of the instrument will result in further enhancements (lighter and more compact with lower power consumption) that will enable the instrument to be incorporated into volcano monitoring networks worldwide. A field-portable instrument can also save a significant amount of money by reducing the need for sampling campaigns.

Figure: Temporal variations of 3He/4He measured at Nigorigo Hot Spring 4.2 km from the summit of Mount Ontake in Japan between 1980 and 2014 (top panel, from Sano et al. (Sci. Rep., 5, 13069, 2015) and at several gas vents on Mount Etna in Italy between 2001 and 2012 (horizontal red lines indicate the eruptions) (bottom panel, from Paonita et al. (Geology, 44, 499-502, 2016).

Overall Goal or MVP (minimum viable product):

To develop a field-portable helium isotope detector that will allow for continuous sub-daily and long-term monitoring of active volcanoes.


Adapting small-unmanned aerial systems (suas) to measure spatial variability in natural emissions of methane and carbon dioxide

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Collaborating PI’s & Organizations: 
Contact: Kristen Manies, USGS - Climate and Land Use Program, kmanies@usgs.gov
Lance Christensen, NASA - Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Richard Kolyer, NASA - Ames
Emma Yates, NASA - Ames
Jack McFarland, USGS – Climate and Land Use Program

The problem and the opportunity:

Boreal ecosystems cover large parts of Alaska, Canada, and Russia. The soils of this region store approximately 50 % of the global soil carbon (C) pool, with much of it bound in permafrost (soil that remains frozen for more than two years). Increasing temperatures associated with climate change are expected to result in near complete thaw of surface permafrost in Interior Alaska over the next 100 years. Often this loss results in the conversion of forests previously underlain by permafrost to thermokarst bogs. Peatlands, which include thermokarst bogs, are a significant source of methane (CH4) to the atmosphere. Therefore, conversion of permafrost forests to thermokarst bogs will increase fluxes of this potent greenhouse gas (GHG) to the atmosphere.

GHG fluxes are often studied using eddy covariance flux towers or chambers placed on the soil surface. However, these methods have limited ability to resolve the heterogeneity of CH4 and CO2 emissions. To obtain the resolution needed to understand factors driving small scale variation in GHG fluxes (i.e. within a bog) we propose to employ a small-unmanned aerial system (sUAS) that can fly extremely close to the surface (< 3 m) The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is now implementing an open-path laser spectrometer (OPLS) CH4 sensor on sUASs to discover and quantify leaks from natural gas pipelines. This miniature gas sensor, similar to one developed by JPL for use on Mars, enables detection of CH4 at 10 ppb s-1, two orders of magnitude better than other instruments this size. We propose to test the ability of OPLS, mounted on a sUAS, to map GHG emissions from natural sources. Our sites reside within an ideal landscape to test this technology for several reasons. First, thermokarst bogs have relatively high emission rates of both CH4 and CO2 for natural ecosystems. In addition, because these bogs and the surrounding forest have been instrumented with both chambers and eddy flux towers, a great deal of information already exists regarding potential fluxes within this environment. Results from this study will improve our understanding of 1) how well these instruments work in natural environments, 2) the best combination of instrument and sUAS, and 3) create a preliminary map of how gases vary both within these thermokarst bogs and across the landscape containing these features.

Overall Goal or MVP (minimum viable product):

Determine the extent to which GHG sensors mounted small-unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) can detect the spatial and temporal variability of CH4, and potentially also CO2 fluxes, within several thermokarst bogs in Interior Alaska, as well as any differences in emissions across the landscape within which these bogs reside.


Real-time hydrologic data using low-power wide-area network (LP-WAN) technology

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Collaborating PI’s & Organizations: 
Contact: Mathieu Marineau mmarineau@usgs.gov
Bob Iannucci bob.iannucci@west.cmu.edu

The problem and the opportunity:

Transmitting real-time hydrologic data typically involves sensors hardwired together to a satellite or cellular modem. The problem is that sensors located too far to be wired in need their own telemetry equipment or those data have to be downloaded manually. In many areas, there are multiple streamgages and sensors that each have their own telemetry equipment even if they are relatively close. Newer technology may enable sensors to be wirelessly linked together at a lower cost per sensor than conventional methods.

In collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), we are co-developing hardware and software which will wirelessly link multiple sensors to a single access point for telemetry. The research is enabled by the emergence of Low-Power Wide-Area networking (LP-WAN) technology, which can allow for low-power, two-way communication up to 15 km in rural areas. This type of technology may be used to link nearby sensors to an existing real-time sites (for example, a USGS stream gage), cellular modem, or household internet connection. We will field-test this technology on at least one demonstration site using water-level loggers which are commonly used for hydrologic monitoring.

Overall Goal or MVP (minimum viable product):

LPWAN-based hardware and software to enable communication SDI-12-based sensors to a central telemetry point which will transmit data to the USGS National Water Inventory System (NWIS) database via cellular, broadband internet, and/or GOES satellite telemetry.


An energy-harvesting tag for weather radar-based animal and unmanned aircraft tracking

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Collaborating PI’s & Organizations: 
Robb Diehl, USGS, Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, rhdiehl@usgs.gov 
Caleb Fulton, University of Oklahoma
Todd Preston, USGS, Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center

The problem and the opportunity:

Biologists and federal aviation administrators share a similar problem, they have a difficult time tracking small things flying around in the airspace.  The FAA currently faces the daunting flight safety task of integrating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) into managed airspace, in part by finding ways to monitor UAVs.  No system currently exists that allows for this capability, and developing and deploying new nationwide monitoring infrastructure to achieve this goal would prove costly.  Likewise, biologists are challenged to study the long-distance movements of small flying animals that, for example, provide critical ecosystem services (bats consuming agricultural pests) or influence human health (birds as reservoirs for disease).  However, current animal tracking technologies either operate over short ranges (radio telemetry), have size and operational limitations for small animals (GPS), or are spatially inaccurate (geolocation).

We propose to design and test an energy-harvesting tag (EHT) capable of integrating with existing U.S. weather radar networks.  The EHT will harvest energy from incoming weather radar pulses and retransmit signals capable of being detected by the transmitting radar.  The transmitted signal will be unique enough to allow detection of the EHT yet subtle enough not interfere with the radar’s primary meteorological mission.  Flying animals and UAVs fitted with these tags should then be detectable by radars within the network.  The tag’s energy-harvesting design reduces the need for a battery or other power source, minimizing its weight and thereby allowing it to be fitted to small flying animals and UAVs.  Moreover, considerable cost savings to society would result if existing U.S. weather radar networks can be repurposed to provide a UAV monitoring platform that can improve flight safety for manned aircraft.

Overall Goal or MVP (minimum viable product):

Engineer and test a small tag capable of harvesting energy from the microwave transmissions U.S. weather radars.  The radar network could then track tags affixed to flying animals, UAVs, or other airborne objects.


Low cost, disposable and field-deployable biosensors for real-time detection of wildlife diseases – Part II

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Collaborating PI’s & Organizations: 
David Blehert, USGS National Wildlife Health Center, dblehert@usgs.gov
Lynn Rothschild, NASA Ames Research Center

The problem and the opportunity:

Healthy wildlife is a critical component of functional ecosystems, and wildlife disease is an important indicator of ecosystem dysfunction. Wildlife populations are not only adversely impacted by diseases from anthropogenic sources, but wildlife disease also has the potential to “spill over” into agricultural animals and humans. For over 40 years, the USGS – National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) has been investigating unusual morbidity and mortality events impacting North American wildlife and has been conducting targeted surveillance for priority wildlife diseases. This program, supported by evolving laboratory diagnostic techniques of increasing technological sophistication, promotes situational awareness of emerging infectious diseases of high consequence and facilitates coordinated disease response activities. Recent advances in synthetic biology lend themselves to development of low-cost, disposable, and field-deployable biosensors to facilitate near real-time detection of pathogens. Further development and deployment of these state-of-the-art tools for detection of wildlife pathogens has the potential to revolutionize national capabilities for conducting surveillance for emerging infectious diseases.

With our partners at the NASA Ames Research Center, we will continue our work to prototype a paper-based microfluidics biosensor that is inexpensive to produce, light, small, disposable, and that can rapidly detect a microbial pathogen. During the first year of this project, we developed a proof-of-concept biosensor that incorporated a synthetic gene expression regulator referred to as a “toehold switch”. Our current objectives are to: (1) increase biosensor sensitivity by utilizing loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) for environmental DNA (eDNA) targets and reverse-transcription LAMP (RT-LAMP) for RNA targets; (2) explore use of an electrochemical reporter to enhance quantitative capabilities and support re-usability of the biosensor; and (3) integrate LAMP and an electrochemical reporter onto the paper-based microfluidics platform to create a more effective prototype. As this proposed biosensor does not require a complex infrastructure for use, it has the potential to transform wildlife disease investigations, surveillance, and diagnostics.

Overall Goal or MVP (minimum viable product):

Engineer and test a small tag capable of harvesting energy from the microwave transmissions U.S. weather radars.  The radar network could then track tags affixed to flying animals, UAVs, or other airborne objects.


The smell of the sea: a novel instrument for marine and atmospheric research

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Collaborating PI’s & Organizations: 
Josh Adams, USGS, Western Ecological Research Center, josh_adams@usgs.gov
Susan De La Cruz, USGS, Western Ecological Research Center
Jing Li, NASA Ames Research Center
Ian G. Brosnan, NASA Ames Research Center

The problem and the opportunity:

Dimethyl sulfide (DMS) is a trace gas produced by microscopic marine organisms that is important for the global sulfur cycle and global climatic homeostasis. DMS also is thought to be an important cue for far-ranging seabirds like albatrosses that search a vast “olfactory landscape” for profitable foraging areas. A greater understanding of DMS and other odors over the oceans can be used to inform marine spatial planning and marine conservation zoning that could benefit U.S. protected and Department of Interior (DOI) trust species like seabirds. A first step requires simultaneous measurements of DMS, animal positions, and animal movements. This is not currently possible; DMS concentration is measured with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) instruments whose size restricts their use to expensive, spatially-limited ship- or aircraft-based research.

We propose to adapt carbon nanotube gas sensors developed by NASA to ultimately integrate with lightweight satellite or GPS tracking tags deployed on seabirds with access to vast reaches of the world’s oceans. The innovation of a small DMS sensor that could be integrated with a tracking tag (currently also being developed by USGS in collaboration with NASA) would be a unique and powerful addition to seabird movement ecology and ocean remote sensing—results generated with this new technology have great potential to advise conservation planning and marine zoning throughout the world’s oceans.

Overall Goal or MVP (minimum viable product):

We will develop a well-characterized carbon nanotube sensor for measuring dimethyl sulfide gas concentrations in a marine environment. 


Next Generation Wildlife Tracking: Dynamic Peer-to-Peer Networks of Tagged Animals

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Collaborating PI’s & Organizations: 
Contact: Susan E. W. De La Cruz, USGS, Western Ecological Research Center, San Francisco Bay Estuary Field Station, sdelacruz@usgs.gov
Tim Tinker, USGS, WERC, Santa Cruz Field Station
Isa Woo, USGS, WERC, San Francisco Bay Estuary Field Station
Mike Casazza, USGS, WERC, Dixon Field Station
Cory Overton, USGS, WERC, Dixon Field Station
Josh Adams, USGS, WERC, Santa Cruz Field Station
Zach Randall, USGS, WERC, Santa Cruz Field Station
Chad R. Frost, NASA Ames Research Center

The problem and the opportunity:

Emerging technologies offer great promise for revolutionizing wildlife tracking and significantly advancing the information we can gain on traditionally hard to track species.   In Phase I of our Innovation Center project, our USGS-NASA team used commercial-off-the-shelf parts to develop a miniaturized solar GPS prototype tag with an integrated accelerometer sensor that is 30% lighter than existing devices and was produced for 25% of the cost.  Phase II of our project is focused on expanding our prototype tag and establishing a fundamentally new and cost-effective data collection and transmission strategy using emerging peer-to-peer network technology.   This technology would allow devices on individual animals to monitor each other creating a distributed peer-to-peer tag network of individual encounters that would provide unprecedented insights into population structure and community interactions.  The addition of this technology to our Phase I prototype tag will allow scientists to investigate animals that are too small to carry a satellite transmitter, but could use our proposed networked transmitter to send data to “portal nodes,” including stationary data receivers or tags on larger, associated species.  Our team has identified three specific objectives for Phase II of our project: 1) continue developmental improvements on Phase I prototype by refining transmitter casing and adapting for additional sensors; 2) develop peer-to-peer mesh network communication capability to enable two-way data exchange; 3) test efficacy of peer-to-peer communication tags by deployment on free-ranging animals.  We will take an open‐hardware, open‐ software approach that aims to produce a low-cost reference design that can be adopted, modified, and improved by commercial providers, universities, and other government labs.

Overall Goal or MVP (minimum viable product):

The Minimum Viable Product resulting from our collaboration will be a low-cost, miniaturized, wildlife GPS-GSM marking prototype with integrated environmental sensors optimized for size, battery life (or solar cell recharge), and peer-to-peer data transmission.


FY 2016 Funded Proposals

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FY 2015 Funded Proposals

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FY 2014 Funded Proposals

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FY 2013 Funded Proposals

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