University researcher's water temp monitoring helps environments around the world

Feb 2, 2016

Scott Tyler, PhD, UNR Foundation Professor of Geological Sciences and Engineering.
Credit UNR

Fiber optic cable usually brings to mind rapid telecommunications and data transfer. The high-tech, hair-breadth cable has also become a critical environmental device being used by a researcher at the University of Nevada, Reno. It helps measure the water temperatures in Lake Tahoe, European glaciers and Cambodia's waterways. Even controlled burns in Arizona have benefited from soil temp measurements using this technology.  

The researcher is Scott Tyler, PhD, Foundation Professor of Geological Sciences and Engineering. He was the guest of University Provost Kevin Carman on KUNR's Beyond the Headlines (air date: 1/29/16; interviewed by David Stipech). 

Dr. Tyler’s distributed-temperature-sensing system, which uses light-scattering as it passes through an optical fiber, is used around the world on a variety of critical projects that require getting accurate and continuous temperatures.

It's a project of the University's Center for Transformative Environmental Monitoring Program (CTEMPs), which is supported of by the National Science Foundation. Tyler is the center's co-director.

Find out more about Dr. Scott Tyler.

Find out more about the University's graduate programs in hydrologic sciences.

Find out more about hydrology degrees.

More about this technology and the work of Dr. Tyler and his team (Source: University of Nevada, Reno)

CTEMPs has been used to monitor drought-stricken Shasta Lake in northern California to help water managers release the proper temperature water to keep the endangered Chinook salmon alive.

With $2.2 million in new NSF funding, CTEMPs is now working with aerial robots, also known as unmanned aerial systems (UAS). This is called AirCTEMPS, which provide the equipment, training and maintenance of the aircraft so researchers aren’t burdened by the operational aspects of their high-tech tools and can focus on the scientists. This approach is being used in Mongolia to gather data about fish population to be used in evaluating a proposed dam upriver from their habitat. Tyler has partnered with colleagues Sudeep Chandra and Zeb Hogan from the Department of Biology and Warren Rapp from the University’s Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center.

Dr. Tyler has several other notable research projects of note:

  • Drilled through 1,000 feet of 10 million-year-old ice near McMurdo Bay to create temperature data through the ice. His distributed temperature system has been providing real-time data at the site ever since.
  • Measured water temperature and thermal currents in Lake Tahoe
  • Provided key soil temperature readings for soil studies in Arizona that have helped better understand how to re-vegetate after controlled burns and other fire events.

FOUNDATION PROFESSOR SCOTT TYLER was named a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union this fall. Dr. Tyler is internationally recognized for his work in hydrology and for pioneering new temperature-sensing applications for fiber optic cable. Dr. Tyler first used this technology in 2008 to study soil temperature and other soil characteristics along the Walker River near Yerington. Today, his instrument facility, the Center for Transformative Environmental Monitoring Program, receives funding from the National Science Foundation and supports research around the world, including the study of Antarctic ice sheets, European glaciers and fish habitats in Nevada, California and, most recently, in Thailand and Cambodia.