No annual report


Proposal ID 2015-034
Submitted January 16, 2015
Owner maxstev2
Department Earth and Space Sciences
Category Portable
Funding Status Fully Funded
Metric Score 4.29


  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • David Montgomery
  • Professor
  • 206-685-2560
  • 351310
  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • Sue Bernhardt
  • Administrator
  • 206-543-0384
  • 351310
  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • Lisa Graumlich
  • Dean of the College of the Environment
  • 206-221-0908
  • 355355



Field experience and field work is an integral part of research in the natural sciences, including Earth and Space Sciences. Field work is often difficult, with rugged terrain, inclement weather, and a variety of field settings that may include walking on a glacier or up a river. As such, there is a strong need for field equipment that can be easily carried, is resistant to water, drops, and dust, and can be used in a multitude of research settings. In this proposal, we seek to obtain ruggedized cameras, GPS units, PC tablets, and laser rangefinders that will expand and enhance student research at the University of Washington. The GPS units and laser rangefinders are essential in locating and conducting quick topographic surveys, are easy to carry, waterproof, and easy to use. The cameras let students document field observations in even adverse weather conditions, and PC tablets will supplement or replace numerous paper maps and notebooks, and allow for quick transfer of data into a digital database. This equipment will be available for all students to use on the UW campus, and their ease of use and rugged nature ensures long operation within the UW community.

Category Justification

This proposal is requesting funding for equipment to be used in field research. Graduate and undergraduate students in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences conduct field research in remote and rugged environments; each piece of equipment being requested here was chosen because it is tough, easy to bring to the field, and usable by any student without specialized training.


The Earth and Space Sciences Department (ESS) comprises a variety of scientific interests from glaciology to space physics to seismology to geomorphology. All of these disciplines place a large emphasis on fieldwork and field experience. ESS field sites range greatly geographically: locations are as varied as Antarctica, the Himalaya, Mt. St. Helens, Greenland, New Zealand, Death Valley, Moab, Nevada, and the Olympic Mountains. Research projects include surveying glaciers, mapping landslide debris, monitoring volcanoes, and testing rockets’ abilities to withstand impacts with the ground. All of these research projects demand field gear that can withstand the different environments of our field areas, help us navigate in foreign places, and be easily portable.

The biggest challenge in any field area is the collection and preservation of data. Working off of paper maps allows for quick note-taking, but quickly becomes cumbersome when juggling topographic, geologic, and geomorphic maps, especially in large field areas where multiple map sets are required. Precise locations are hard to obtain, particularly when working in heavily forested or remote regions where it is hard to find topographic markers. Furthermore, inclement and unexpected weather conditions often arise, soaking any paper material and rendering most electronics unusable for the time being.

ESS has a pool of equipment that was purchased with STF funding, including several handheld GPS units that are constantly checked out and one point-and-shoot camera that is nearing the end of its lifetime. We are requesting funding to modernize and supplement this equipment pool with new handheld GPS units, rugged point-and-shoot cameras, rugged tablets, and laser rangefinders.

Benefits to Students and the University

The ability to rapidly and accurately collect data, take photos, and obtain GPS locations is essential to field-based research projects. In remote areas where existing datasets are sparse or non-existent, it is vital that researchers are able to collect as much information as possible. The current resources within ESS and at UW are insufficient to meet student researchers needs. At present, the GPS units are in constant demand, and thus unavailable to all student researchers, and the cameras are outdated, fragile, and do not meet researchers’ needs. Additionally, there are currently no rugged tablets or laser rangefinders available to the students in ESS.

We request equipment that will make field data collection in remote environments possible in all weather conditions.

We are requesting 2 ruggedized tablet computers suitable for field work in all environments. The ruggedized tablets can replace the hefty series of maps that would normally need to be carried and are resistant to water, dust, and drops. With tablets, researchers can load maps onto the tablet itself, and use mapping software to note and locate features in the field, with easy transfer to desktop computers.

We are requesting 4 handheld GPS units to supplement our existing supply of handheld GPS units. Most field work is done during the summer months. The ESS equipment pool currently includes 5 handheld GPS units; these units are all utilized during the field season. This situation leaves numerous students’ requests for GPS units unfulfilled. The existing GPS units are 4 years old and reaching the end of their serviceable lifetime; additionally, advances in handheld GPS technology have been made since those units were purchased.

To serve students who want point and shoot cameras and/or are working in harsh environmental conditions, we are requesting 3 compact waterproof point-and-shoot cameras and one waterproof mirrorless camera. The ESS equipment pool currently includes 1 point-and-shoot digital camera and 3 DSLR cameras. The point-and-shoot camera is in constant demand throughout the year; many students want a simple camera for field work without needing to learn how to use a DSLR. The DSLR cameras were purchased for projects that require high-resolution photography such as photogrammetry; however, they are often used for field projects by students who would prefer a compact camera. With rugged waterproof cameras, researchers will not have to worry about damaging the camera while working in rainy conditions. The compact cameras will suit students who need a simple camera to document field work. The mirrorless camera will suit students who are working in adverse conditions but need higher quality (e.g. RAW format) photographs.

We are also requesting two laser rangefinders. These devices are used to measure distance, slope angle, slope distance, and object height, and are a quick way to conduct topographic surveys and take measurements in the field. They have the advantage over higher precision survey tools, such as total stations and auto-levels, in their portability, rapid measurements, and ease of use. For remote field settings, it is essential to have a laser rangefinder to make accurate measurements of distant objects, and unfortunately, ESS currently does not have any laser rangefinders publicly available for student research.

With the addition of these field instruments, students and researchers in the Earth and Spaces Sciences, as well as other departments at the University of Washington, will be able to efficiently conduct research in remote areas in all weather conditions.

In addition, the Master’s in Applied Geoscience (MESSAGe) program within the ESS Department has a strong need for field equipment. As part of this intensive one-year Master’s program, graduate students complete a capstone research project. Due to the recency of this program, currently in its third year, many of the participants do not have private access to field gear and rely on publicly owned equipment, such as STF-funded gear. The acquisition of rugged field equipment will improve the breadth and quality of capstone research projects through access to state of the art, portable, and versatile technology.

As of Winter 2015, the ESS department consists of:
-157 undergraduate students
-90 graduate students (research and MESSAGe)
-1200 students enrolled annually in ESS 101
-50 students enrolled in summer field courses*

Examples of projects within ESS that will use and benefit from these resources:
-Carbon River, Mt Rainier, response to climate change
-Recent (Anthropocene) river terrace formation
-Rates of coastal bluff erosion through landsliding events
-Installing seismometers to image magma under Mt. St. Helens
-River profile surveys during Summer Field Camp for undergraduates
-Monitoring glacier change on Mt. Rainier and in Olympic National Park

*estimates from ESS Department Advisors

Departmental Endorsements

I wish to give my strong endorsement to this proposal. As discussed in the student proposal, the requested ruggedized laptops, compact cameras and laser rangefinders are all important for student research in the field. Increased capacity in laptops is particularly important as GIS/GPS applications are increasingly important in the analysis of data in the field. This increase in field-based technology is vastly increasing productivity and insight to a level previously not achievable.

Since grant funded equipment is often very specific and typically not available for seed or student projects. Such projects are therefore often underequipped and productivity limited which then effects competitiveness for proposals based on these initial efforts. The proposal would greatly improve this situation.

The department continues its commitments to supporting graduate research projects through its endowments and research cost recovery. However, these funds are unable to provide as much support as they used to due to reduced endowment returns, and increased costs from increased tuition, on budgets that have been pretty well flat-lined for the last several years. Thus, STF support is extremely important for obtaining the necessary equipment students need to be able to perform their research in a timely fashion.

The students have been operating a checkout system over the last several years that has been very successful, and enables all students to have access to the equipment which resides in a dedicated room. There is every expectation that the new purchases will be similarly maintained and aid student research programs.

-Dr. Robert WInglee, Chair and Professor, Dept of Earth and Space Sciences

I am writing to endorse the STF proposal to acquire ruggedized field gear. Having rugged, waterproof, and portable field equipment is essential in geomorphic studies, especially in remote areas like the Himalaya. Traditional survey equipment is unwieldy and hard to carry through forested terrain. With an easily portable laser rangefinder, quick topographic surveys are made possible; for example, measuring the trim-lines of megaflood events in the Tsangpo Gorge to constrain modelling studies of gorge erosion. Weather-proof field cameras and GPS units are an invaluable tool in geomorphic research as well and our currently units are either out of date or waitlisted due to constant demand. With additional cameras and GPS units available, more student researchers will be able to conduct high quality, top-of-the-line research. I strongly support this proposal for rugged field gear.
-Dr. Katharine Huntington, Associate Professor, Department of Earth and Space Sciences

I am writing to express my support for this STF proposal to acquire rugged cameras, tablets, and GPS units to aid in field work. Field work is an important component of Earth Science research, and having modern tools to use in that field work is essential. I oversee and support graduate-led research on Blue Glacier in Olympic National Park, which is an important effort to continue data collection that began there 50 years ago. Each year numerous students venture to Blue Glacier to make annual measurements. This research will benefit directly from having the equipment proposed here. Field experience is a critical component of graduate study in Earth Science, and in-house equipment like this facilitates student-led projects to address scientific questions of local concern. These pieces of equipment are a strong complement to existing resources, and would give students here an educational and research advantage.
- Dr. Michelle Koutnik, Research Assistant Professor, Department of Earth and Space Sciences

Direct digital data collection has become standard for many researchers in academia and industry. The proposed suite of digital devices represents a basic field toolkit, applicable to many disciplines. While many students have access to tablet computers and digital cameras, field conditions are not always conducive to the use (or survival) of electronic equipment. Ruggedized, waterproof equipment is specifically intended for field I expect that this equipment will be in very high demand from students at all levels conducting independent field projects for ESS and beyond. For example, about 15 students from the Masters in ESS-Applied Geosciences conduct independent field projects annually, an and each project would benefit from this equipment.
-Dr. Juliet Crider, Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator of Applied Geoscience (MESSAGe), Department of Earth and Space Sciences

The ability to collect data in remote field areas is a fundamental aspect of modern environmental and earth science. GPS units, digital cameras, laser rangefinders, and rugged laptops are now essential field equipment for field research. But the high cost of a full complement of such equipment is prohibitive for graduate students to provide such equipment themselves. The students in Earth and Space Sciences, across disciplines from classical geological mapping, to studies of rivers or seismology would greatly benefit from having ready access to the type of rugged field equipment requested here. Such equipment would be used at study areas around the world and benefit a great many students in the coming years.
--Dr. David R. Montgomery, Professor, Dept. of Earth & Space Sciences

Geology and earth sciences are heavily field-oriented disciplines. As such, students need to get as much field experience as possible while at the UW. We encourage our students to work on field-based research projects so that they have a solid understanding of our environment for further modeling and assessments. Many of our student are interested in geologic processes and so monitor sites over time to observe changes. A few examples: determining the rate of coastal bluff retreat to predict the extent of landsliding that will result from sea level rise, and evaluating sediment transport from the removal of a dam to assess impact on fisheries. For these field projects we need accurate and precise geographic control, both horizontal and vertical. Our students need to make efficient and repeatable measurements in the field and they need to document those measurements. The equipment that most addresses these needs consists of: rugged field computers, hand-held GPS units, cameras, and laser rangefinders. These field items are also used by professionals outside of academia, se we give our students the opportunity to prepare for applied and research professions. I support the ESS STF proposal for these equipment items.
-Kathy Troost, Senior Lecturer and MESSAGe Program Coordinator, Department of Earth and Space Sciences


Installation Timeline

The equipment will be ordered as soon as funding is received. The equipment will be available for student use as soon as it is received and cataloged. We are asking for fast-track funding so that the equipment will be available for the summer 2015 field season.

Resources Provided by Department

The equipment will be stored in extra cabinet space in the the ATG building. ESS graduate students have volunteered to manage the pool of STF equipment. The ESS equipment pool includes several Nikon lenses that will be able to be used with the Nikon 1 AW 1.

Access Restrictions (if any)

The equipment will be stored in a locked cabinet with other equipment purchased with STF funds in previous years. The current ESS STF-equipment pool is managed by 3 graduate students; equipment can be checked out by anyone on campus by contacting one of the managers with 24 hours notice.

Student Endorsements

I strongly support this proposal for field technology for student use. This equipment would be essential for my research in the field. I will be working outdoors in Nevada where the weather is unpredictable, and taking un-waterproof and not rugged equipment to the field is not an option. Field tablets that would allow me to input observations into a digital mapping software on the spot would immensely increase the efficiency and accuracy of my maps. Furthermore, hand-held GPS units are increasingly expected rather than state-of-the-art: in order to publish sample analyses, you must be able to give accurate locations of your samples. The proposed equipment would greatly facilitate the success of my field work.
-Julia Kelson, Graduate Student, Department of Earth and Space Sciences

I'm excited about the new equipment in this STF proposal. A constant problem with fieldwork that I've performed is the challenges of bringing fragile computing equipment into a rugged environment. These new tablets are lightweight (which is always a good thing when you're hauling equipment on your back) while being able to withstand real field conditions. I would have used these if available during past mapping projects. At my previous institution, I used a laser range finder during a project mapping tsunami deposits on the Oregon coast. These are great pieces of equipment: accurate, lightweight and reliable. I highly recommend supporting this proposal.
-Adam Campbell, PhD candidate, Department of Earth and Space Sciences

I am a fourth-year seismology graduate student in the Earth and Space Sciences department. Much of the seismic data that I have used and will continue to use for my PhD research comes from arrays of stations we have deployed around Washington state, often spanning 10s to 100s of kilometers. I have found handheld GPS units essential in performing fieldwork siting, installing, and servicing these stations. Most of the stations we operate are situated so as not to be seen from roads or trails, so each of our field teams absolutely requires the use of a handheld GPS device to accurately locate stations. I am confident that new handheld GPS units would see valuable use by our seismology group as well as many other ESS students.
-Carl Ulberg, Graduate Student, Department of Earth and Space Sciences

I am a fourth year volcanology graduate student and have been in the field twice during my time at UW. I was collecting samples for analyses of geochemical variability across a lava flow, which requires accurate knowledge of sample locations. Most field projects require the ability to accurately locate samples and outcrops, so having access to new field gear would benefit many students. GPS units and tablets that can be taken into the field would be extremely useful, since a variety of maps and data could be preloaded and used for identifying sample locations while on the outcrop. Field work is an important part of many Earth and Space Science students' graduate studies; having access to this technology would be beneficial for completing these projects.
-Jillian Schleicher, Graduate Student, Department of Earth and Space Sciences

I strongly support this proposal for new rugged and weatherproof field equipment. As a graduate student studying geology in the Earth and Space Science Department, my academic success directly depends on my ability to execute field based research. Electronics such as GPS units and digital cameras have become standard equipment for field researchers, but despite their necessity, their high cost can make them a financial burden for graduate students. If granted, this proposal will provide access to new high quality equipment, which will surely see extensive use across all research programs relying on the collection and documentation of field data. The ruggedized tablets and rangefinders included in this proposal are becoming important new technological tools, and allow long standing methodologies to be updated to 21st century technology. Tablets in particular are seeing increased usage amongst field researchers, allowing us to carry extensive catalogs of data (including maps), take notes, and perform field-based measurements with a single device. All of the included equipment would be used regularly in Earth and Space Sciences, let alone amongst other departments with field-based research programs. By funding this proposal, you will be ensuring all graduate students have access to modern (and some state of the art) field gear.
-Keith Hodson, Graduate Student, Department of Earth and Space Sciences

I am a 5th year PhD student in the Earth and Space Sciences Department, and I fully endorse this proposal for field gear that is essential to graduate student research. Digital cameras and handheld GPS units are requisite tools for almost every graduate student in our department. Our department owns few handheld GPS units and digital cameras, for which there is constant over demand. As such, these purchases would fill a much-needed gap that would greatly benefit a large number of students. Tablet computers and laser rangefinders are more specialized instruments that will facilitate cutting-edge research that could not be done otherwise. Tablet computers and laser rangefinders will greatly expedite field work for many students and will be well worth the investment. All of these tools will ensure that the University of Washington maintains a forward-looking approach to research and education.
-Perry Spector, Graduate Student, Department of Earth and Space Sciences

Studying earth processes is inherently field based, to some degree; and one process which often makes its presence known while studying in the field is weather. One of the greatest challenges of field work is managing environmental conditions, whether it be temperature, precipitation, or high wind. The camera and computer equipment requested in this funding proposal will allow research students to focus on what they observe in the field and will reduce the likelihood of losing data when less rugged electronics are destroyed by exposure to the elements. As a first year graduate student in the Earth and Space Sciences Department researching landslides and geomorphology, I have already spent numerous days in the field and am certain that field work will continue to be an integral component of my research throughout my time at the University of Washington. I can personally attest to the need of weatherproof cameras, laser range finders, rugged computers, and handheld GPS units; and I believe that funding this proposal will allow more students to do better research in earth sciences.
-Sean LaHusen, Graduate Student, Department of Earth and Space Sciences

I am a third year graduate student in the Earth and Space Sciences Department, and the acquisition of rugged field gear is invaluable for my field work. My research focuses on recent changes to rivers in the Pacific Northwest, and my field work often involves bushwacking through forests, wading or kayaking up rivers, and working in all weather conditions (snow, rain, and sun). I often carry several paper maps with me, and later have to transpose all my notes to my digital mapping files. With a rugged computing tablet, this process is simplified, and human error lessened. Having a waterproof camera is a necessity; there is simply no avoiding getting wet. All of the proposed equipment is directly useful to my field work, and the work of the majority of this department, and I strongly support this proposal.
-Sarah Schanz, Graduate Student, Department of Earth and Space Sciences

These ruggedized tablets will make geologic and environmental mapping faster, more precise, and more useful. Converting paper maps to digital maps is a labor-intensive process that introduces more error into the process of mapping. By mapping directly onto a tablet, not only is the map much more precise, but it is also useable immediately in ArcGIS. This would make my work (mapping glacial deposits in Antarctica) easier to produce, as well as easier to analyze
-Trevor Hillebrand, Graduate Student, Department of Earth and Space Sciences

As a PhD student in ESS, I support this proposal. I currently share the responsibility of maintaining and issuing the existing STF equipment within ESS. The aging cameras and GPS receivers are always in high demand, and this past summer, we actually had to turn students away empty handed because all of the STF equipment was already checked out. The tablets in the proposal will provide real-time mapping capabilities, which will be useful for my own fieldwork in the WA Cascades in the coming years.
-David Shean, PhD candidate, Department of Earth and Space Sciences

I am excited to support this proposal. The rugged equipment that is being requested will be beneficial to my research on the effects of climate change on Nisqually Glacier as well as my research on spatial variability of snow strength. I have encountered adverse weather conditions in several field campaigns and wish I could have had access to equipment that is designed to work in those conditions. This suite of equipment will make my field time more productive. I know numerous students whose field work will also utilize this pool of equipment.
-C. Max Stevens, PhD candidate, Department of Earth and Space Sciences

The persistent evolution of technology for acquiring topographic data as well as computer processing power have revolutionized and rejuvenated many fields within geomorphology. Modern technology benefits both modern "desktop" geology studies and especially traditional fieldwork. Graduate students in the Earth and Space Sciences Department at the University of Washington would greatly benefit from the proposed new field equipment, myself included. The proposed purchase for field gear will aid ESS graduate students in utilizing modern tools for the better, more efficient fieldwork. In my own research in the Cascades, I will use a combination of GPS and rugged tablets for geologic field mapping. I spend a lot of time working around rivers in Washington, which is a very wet landscape with persistent rain and waterproof cameras are crucial for field photos. Myself and other research graduate students in ESS will greatly benefit from the proposed new field equipment.
-Jonathan Beyeler, Graduate Student, Department of Earth and Space Sciences



Group Funded Item Unit price Quantity Subtotal

Laser rangefinder

$749.00 2 $1,498.00

Laser Technology TruPulse 200


Laser rangefinders allow for quick surveys to be conducted across long distances, necessary when working in rugged and unpredictable terrain. The device measures distance, slope, height, and slope distance and is ruggedized to be water, dust, and drop resistant. This device has a range of up to a kilometer, an accuracy of ? meter, and is light and easily portable.


Ruggedized tablet

$2,349.07 2 $4,698.14

Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1


Rugged tablet is water, drop and dust resistant. Running Windows 7, it allows field mapping using digital maps and mapping software such as ArcGIS Windows Mobile, which UW already owns the license to.

Garmin GPS for laptop

$92.45 2 $184.90

Garmin GLO - GPS/GLONASS receiver module


Adds GPS capabilities to the Panasonic Toughpad, but can be used with any device with Bluetooth capabilities. Allows for connectivity with the GPS/GLONASS satellite network to get 3 meter (10 ft) location accuracy.

tablet car charger

$35.90 2 $71.80

CyberPower CPS100BU - AC to DC power inverter - 100 Watt


Charges electronics from car battery, intended to extend battery life of Toughpad and increase mobility and range of use of tablet PC.


Waterproof compact point-and-shoot camera

$299.00 3 $897.00

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS6


These are high-quality compact point-and-shoot cameras. Field work conducted by ESS graduate and undergraduate students is in rugged environments, and these cameras are waterproof and drop proof. They also feature a time-lapse photography option.

Waterproof mirrorless camera

$796.95 1 $796.95

Nikon 1 AW1


This camera is a waterproof and crushproof mirrorless system camera. It is an ideal camera for students who need high-quality photos of field sites while working in harsh environments. This camera package includes a zoom lens.

Wide angle lens

$196.95 1 $196.95

Nikon 1 Nikkor AW 10mm f/2.8 lens


This is an additional fixed focal length lens for the AW1 that is wider angle than the lens included with the camera body.

UV Filter

$20.47 2 $40.94

Hoya - 40.5 mm UV Haze NXT HMC Filter


Filters to protect the AW1 lenses.

Lens mount adapter

$236.95 1 $236.95

Nikon FT1 Mount Adapter


This adapter allows the use of Nikon F-mount lenses on the Nikon 1 Series cameras. The ESS department STF equipment pool owns several Nikon lenses; this adapter will allow those lenses to be used with the AW1.

Camera case

$41.96 1 $41.96

Nikon Water-Resistant Body Case


Water-resistant case to store the AW1 in.


$49.88 1 $49.88

Davis & Sanford Voyager Lite with BHQ8 Ball Head Tripod


Small, lightweight tripod that can be easily carried to field sites; can be used with any of the cameras.

Memory card

$24.29 4 $97.16

SanDisk Ultra - flash memory card - 32 GB - SDHC UHS-I


Memory cards for each of the cameras.

Spare Camera Battery

$36.99 1 $36.99


Nikon EN-EL20 Rechargeable Li-ion Battery

Spare battery for Nikon 1 AW1.


Handheld GPS

$165.58 4 $662.32

Garmin eTrex 20 - GPS/GLONASS receiver


Basic GPS receivers for field work use



$903.44 1 $903.44


9.5% WA sales tax.

Total requested: $10,413.38

Total funded: $10,413.38


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