Jornada Basin SiteBytes 2008

Ongoing Activities
We continue to perform ongoing tasks of data documentation, collection, archive, and backup for all research data archived within the Jornada Information Management System (JIMS). We continue planning how to effectively integrate geographic information system (GIS) data layers and research site locations with research data and associated metadata to enhance the quality and availability of all JRN data and to generate more detailed and precise EML documentation. We also continue to provide GPS of research site locations and production of new GIS layers, to provide GIS and GPS support to researchers and students including training and map production. We continue to administer NMSU site licenses for GIS and remote sensing software (Nolen). We continue to populate the JIMS database with research project and associated dataset metadata to support EML generation and the data catalog for all Jornada Basin LTER (JRN) datasets.

We are currently modifying our XML style sheets to generate EML level 5 using PHP for all JRN data holdings. The GIS metadata stored in XML (ESRI ArcCatalog) will be used to generate EML documentation for all JRN GIS layers stored within JIMS, which will include geographic bounding coordinates within EML documents describing research datasets.

Storage Solution
The Jornada Experimental Range (JER) purchased a new storage area network (SAN), a fiber channel switch, network attached storage (NAS) server, and fiber channel tape library. This storage solution gives JRN nearly 24 TB of storage capacity with the ability to add 28 TB by adding 1 TB hard drives.

File Server
JRN is purchasing a new file server using the LTER site supplement this year. The operating system for the new server will be Novell Open Enterprise Server on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. Upgrading the operating system from Netware 6.5 will give us the capability to organize our data easier as our volume size limit will be increased from 2 TB to 16 TB per volume; e.g., our image archive is currently spread out over 6 volumes on the old file server.

GIS/Image Archives, Services, and Web Applications
We are working closely with JRN users of imagery to improve organization of and access to JRN GIS and remote sensing (RS) data. With the growing quantity of imagery at the Jornada, consistent organization, use of naming conventions, processes for adding and acquiring GIS and RS data, and search interfaces and map services for gaining access to the image archives is critical. We are also exploring new methods for backup of imagery to minimize the backup window and reduce impacts on the local area network (LAN). We are preparing to connect 2 imagery users to the SAN to demonstrate the speed and performance of the SAN versus traditional local disk storage to our imagery users. Backup of the SAN is much faster than LAN-based backups of desktop computers and does not impact LAN performance. We deployed ESRI ArcGIS Server for Java and ArcGIS Image Server on the new GIS server and have begun to develop and deliver map services and web mapping applications for research projects. We attended the Annual ESRI International User Conference in San Diego, CA again this year to gather more detailed technical information necessary to develop search interfaces for the aerial photographs (> 5,000) and other image archives and to stay current on advances in ESRI software.

Jornada Website
The new web server has been deployed. The new data cart will be deployed soon and will enforce the JRN data access policy by requiring user registration and authentication prior to download of JRN data. We will be phasing in the data cart in a prioritized manner; ongoing, long-term datasets first, followed by climate and all remaining unrestricted datasets. Prior to deployment of the new server, the website was updated. The new website has the familiar look and feel of the old website, but under the hood, site authentication now uses the JRN LDAP directory and XML configuration files for dynamic web page creation. The LDAP integration also supports the new user registration and data cart systems.

Cyber-Infrastructure Challenges and Projects

1. Major Cyber-Infrastructure (CI) Challenge
Adding full-time, permanent personnel to the JRN site to support site and cross-site research projects and other LTER Network activities such as K-12 education is a major CI challenge for JRN. This section of the site byte will describe the CI staffing needs to support site and cross-site research and education activities and a planned CI project and how the position impacts current and planned activities. JRN needs a full-time computer programmer/systems administrator position in the site office to reduce current workloads within the site office and maintain the computer network systems of the JRN, including the wireless networks in the field. This position would also develop computer programs for collection, transmission, quality assurance, and analysis of data collected from sensor networks and supporting wireless systems. There will also be a need for a full-time sensor/wireless network technician position to install and maintain the planned wireless/sensor networks and related equipment, and when those responsibilities allow, to assist in data collection and maintenance of other field research equipment. Jointly, the 2 positions would maintain the wireless and sensor networks described below; one from a software perspective and the other from hardware.

Planned Jornada CI Project Goal
Extend wireless coverage and infrastructure across research sites and increase bandwidth to the field station to support research projects, wireless sensors and sensor networks, and research and educational activities; making data collection, quality assurance and control, and site management and maintenance more efficient and cost effective.

1a. Science issue driving the need for increased wireless instrumentation and staffing

Since the mid 1990s, we have extended our LTER research to include all of the Jornada Experimental Range in addition to our original site, the NMSU CDRRC. The total area being addressed by our research activities is > 100,000 ha. This area is diverse in topography, vegetation, soils, and management history. In addition, summer thunderstorms are isolated events that often occur only in a small part of the study site. Because the focus of our LTER research since LTER IV (2000) is on patch to landscape-scale variation in pattern and processes, we need to be able to measure and monitor both the abiotic and biotic characteristics of the entire area as well as its spatial and temporal context within the county of Dona Ana and the northern Chihuahuan Desert region. We have been expanding our wireless network capabilities as funds are available, but our staffing needs have not kept up with our instrumentation.

One limitation to conducting site and cross-site research is the limited coverage of the wireless networks across the research area (104,166 hectares). Remote, semi-automated collection and processing (QA/QC, storage, backup) of data collected over the wireless network from sensor networks connected to scientific data loggers and storage modules offers the promise of increasing the frequency, quality, and amount of data collected across the Jornada. By leveraging technology we can minimize field technician time needed to collect data and perform maintenance while minimizing data errors by automating the process of data collection, quality assurance, and archival storage and subsequent backup. The extended coverage will also support near-realtime event based analysis. Currently, several research sites and the JRN weather station are connected to the wireless network for data collection. The need to add further instrumentation at varying locations across the research area requires extending the wireless network to include most of the research area. Given the topology and lack of high canopies, the Jornada Basin research area is ideal for extending the WiFi and spread spectrum wireless clouds across most of the research area. This system will support a more automated approach to data collection and processing and maintenance.

1b. Impact of insufficient staffing and wireless instrumentation on site activities

An extended wireless network, and staff to install and maintain it, will support research, education, and public outreach activities across the research area. Some of the activities that the extended wireless cloud will support include interactive distance learning from the field to classrooms (K-12), data collection and use (upload/download data) in the field, near real-time streaming data collection, and efficient use of field technician time when responding to event driven data collection efforts. The wireless coverage will support the automation of historic rain gage networks and weather stations by supporting wireless data collection as the instrumentation is upgraded. The USDA ARS Jornada Experimental Range is currently updating its recording rain gage network in a phased approach to support wireless data collection.

The extended wireless coverage will also help reduce trips to/from the field to retrieve information from the JRN servers and reduce technician and travel time to remote sites for event driven data collection by allowing the technician to monitor events remotely prior to going to the field, thus minimizing trips to remote sites that were not impacted by the event (e.g. localized thunderstorm). This should help reduce fuel costs and make more efficient use of technician time. The system will also support a more automated sensor data collection and processing approach as more sensors and data loggers are established, reducing field technician time collecting data and providing more time for technician maintenance and will reduce the turnaround time from data collection to data availability and use.

Increased bandwidth is needed to support increased use of the connection between the field station and NMSU campus to support video and data streams. The current T-1 connection is not sufficient for this purpose as the T-1 bandwidth (1.54 MB) is shared with the phone system and the Intranet connection at the field station. The most economical solution would be to connect the campus and field station using point-to-point high speed wireless from the field station to Tortugas Mountain, near the NMSU campus. NMSU currently has the fiber cable to connect Tortugas Mountain and the campus and is in the process of obtaining easements with the electric company and the city. Some down time due to atmospheric conditions is acceptable and future sensor networks and data loggers will be designed to accommodate for this limitation.

1c. Impact of insufficient staffing on site’s participation in network activities
The ability of JRN scientists to conduct cross-site research with other sites is severely limited by incomplete wireless coverage at our site. We can participate in location-based research where data are collected manually or from our current wireless setup, but that includes < 5% of our large research site.

Our site is also limited in the ability of our IM to fully participate in network level activities because of time constraints. Currently, two of the responsibilities of the JRN Information Manager (IM) are system administration and computer programming. Given the many duties of the Information Manager to support the site, it is extremely difficult for the IM to participate fully in LTER Network initiatives. The proposed positions would augment site staff and reduce the workload of the IM, Research Site Manager, and field crew. The new positions would allow the IM to focus on information management and maintenance of the Jornada Information Management System while allowing for more active participation in the LTER Network including cross-site research projects and information management working groups. The assistance of a sensor/wireless technician would give the site flexibility to assist in research site setup, data collection, and maintenance for cross-site research projects. Adding the 2 staff positions to the site is the JRN’s top priority as funding is made available. If funding is sufficient for only one position, the computer programmer/system administrator position is the higher priority.

The JRN has and will continue to pursue funding for the equipment and software to extend the wireless coverage and bandwidth from grant proposals and collaborations. The JRN plans to extend the wireless coverage within the next year or 2. Increasing the bandwidth to the field station will be delayed until final easements are established from Tortugas Mountain to the NMSU campus. The extended wireless system will also facilitate research and education activities within the site and across the LTER Network. It will enable cross-site sensor network deployment at the Jornada to support synthetic research by providing the infrastructure for sensor networks and remote K-12 ecological education within Southern New Mexico and West Texas and potentially across the LTER Network. The extension of the wireless coverage across the research area is critical to emerging site and cross-site research efforts and approaches. The greatest challenge now is to fund the additional staff positions.

CI Project needs (prioritized):
a. Additional Staffing:
i. Full time position: Computer Programmer/System Administrator. This position would maintain the wireless systems and network infrastructure and develop programs for data loggers and sensor networks to support collection, download, and quality control and assurance for near-realtime streaming data and quality assurance routines and algorithms to monitor the wireless system and sensor networks for performance issues, such as detecting sensor drift.
ii. Full-time position: Sensor/Wireless Network Technician. This position would install and maintain the wireless system and sensor networks, collect and process data from scientific instrumentation in the field, and perform other duties of a research assistant as required.
b. Support Equipment: Additional equipment and software (rugged laptop, computer, etc.) to support new position
c. Vehicle: 4WD vehicle for the Sensor/Wireless Network Technician position.
d. System: Wireless network and related equipment to extend wireless coverage across research area and sites (infrastructure only, not sensors and related equipment) and to establish a low recurring cost point-to-point high speed wireless connection to/from the remote field station and the servers and site offices on the NMSU campus (25+ miles). This would increase bandwidth from existing < 773 KB partial T-1 connection to > 1 GB bandwidth to the Jornada servers with minimal recurring costs beyond initial acquisition.