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Mapping Streamflow from Above and Below

Photo of me checking the water level along the Lower Henry’s Fork.

Hello! My name is Erik Sauer and I am the Geospatial Groundwater and Stream Temperature Intern at the Henry’s Fork Foundation this summer. I graduated from St. Lawrence University in upstate New York last fall with a major in Environmental Studies. My background is primarily in computer mapping, conservation, and agriculture.

In the fall of 2019, while a junior at St. Lawrence University, I took a course on the global politics and economics of fisheries. I previously had no background in fishing, aside from a few sunburned days spent skewering red wigglers and slapping mosquitoes. This class made me especially aware of the human element of fisheries as the market has changed over the past few decades. In my final semester at SLU, I worked on an independent project that looked at relationships among soil type, soil compaction and hayfield plant species in a managed hayfield. During the independent study, I developed my mapping skills and appreciated the value of working collaboratively with a mentor.

While at Henry’s Fork Foundation, I have been working with Christina Morrisett on her PhD research into groundwater inflows and cold-water refuges in the Lower Henry’s Fork. On a weekly basis, we have been collecting data on total streamflow at four locations along the river. This information will give a better idea of where other water sources may be flowing into and out of the river and changing overall flow. We also gather data from four piezometers, which tell us what the groundwater level is. Comparing the water table elevations from all of these sites, we can also tell the direction the groundwater is flowing.

When not in the field, I have been working on visualizing the water table data from the piezometers with mapping software, as well as processing thermal images. In the coming weeks, we will be using thermal drone imagery to identify where groundwater flows into the Lower Henry’s Fork. This inflow of water is often cooler than the river and can help provide thermal refuges for fish that prefer colder temperatures.

Interning at Henry’s Fork for the past month has allowed me to challenge my abilities and learn about the hydrology, agriculture, and fly-fishing essential to the area. I am motivated by long-term community oriented research projects. HFF is the ideal place for collaborative science and communication and will prepare me well to continue studying geographic information systems (GIS) at the University of Minnesota this coming fall.

I was lucky enough to spend two months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya.

Recording some streamflow data just upstream of Parker Bridge on the Lower Henry’s Fork.

A view of the Tetons from the trail to Packsaddle Lake.

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