The Campbell Tract is the Agricultural Research Station for the Dept. of Land, Air and Water resources. I was the acting Operations Director out there for this past year and got to work on several interesting projects. Just keeping things running was quite an effort as much of the infrastructure is 50+ years old. I made some headway in modernizing some of the data collection and getting data flowing (and being archived) on servers on campus. One of my main goals out there over the year was to facilitate data accessibility and have less dead end data.
The Davis Lysimeters
One of the more interesting (and challenging) project I worked on at Campbell Tract were the world famous Davis Lysimeters. Lysimeters are basically large pans of soil (6 meters across and 1 meter deep!) that are set on a weighing device. We have two lysimeters at the site, a weighing lysimeter and and floating lysimeter. They work on different principles but their basic utility is to be able to very accurately measure mass flux into and out of the lysimeter, thus directly measure precipitation, irrigation and evapotranspiration at the field scale. The lysimeters were built in the late 50's, during the heart of the Cold war and going down beneath them feels (and smells) like going into a bunker. They once had elaborate ventilation and pumping systems for keeping the access tunnels free of water but those have long since ceased to function. We modernized the datalogging and the data can now be streamed on the web, truly an intersection of the mid 20th century and the early 21st century.