Wednesday, September 30, 2015

SEN Fall Newsletter

Dear Experimentalists,
We hope everyone had a productive summer and are getting geared up for an exciting fall with the Sediment Experimentalist Network.
This issue contains the following:

  1. Graduate Student/Early Career AGU Travel Grant Contest
  2. Binghamton Geomorphology Symposium Update
  3. EC3 Field Trip Report
  4. New Features and Updates on
Graduate Student/Early Career AGU Travel Grant Contest
The Sediment Experimentalist Network (SEN) is sponsoring a data-sharing contest for graduate students and early career scientists who feel passionate about making their data public. The top three winners will be awarded travel grants in the amount of $1000 for use towards the 2015 American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting.  The deadline for entries has been extended to October 15, 2015.
Binghamton Geomorphology Symposium Update
This September, SEN attended the 46th annual Binghamton Geomorphology Symposium hosted by the University of Buffalo.  This year’s theme was Experiments in Geomorphology and featured tours of various lab facilities and talks covering a wide range of experiments (photos).  SEN’s own Brandon McElroy presented a talk on our recent Geomorphology paper.  Wonsuck Kim, Raleigh Martin, and Kim Miller presented posters, which can be viewed here.
EC3 Field Trip Report
SEN team member, Raleigh Martin, recently attended a field trip hosted by EarthCube Building Block EC3, Earth-Centered Communication for Cyber-infrastructure, which focuses on the challenges of field data collection, management, and integration.  Check out the blog post to read about what we as experimentalist can learn from the field about data sharing.

New Features and Updates on
The Knowledge Base/Wiki at now has an entry category for “Lab Facility”, which can be linked to equipment entries.  Use these entries to promote your lab or find other lab facilities for collaborations. 
Also, there have been several new entries over the last month including: Erosional landscape topography by Kristin Sweeney, Field saltation observations by Raleigh Martin, and Data for experiments in high-intensity bedload transport by Ricardo Hernandez.
For up to date information about SEN, please check out our blog at and follow us on Twitter (@sedimentexp).
Happy experimenting,
The Sediment Experimentalist Network

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Raleigh Martin at EC3 Workshop 2015

Recently I participated in the EarthCube funded EC3 (Earth-Center Communication for Cyberinfrastructure) workshop at Yosemite National Park and Owens Valley, California.  The workshop brought together a mix of geoscientists and computer scientists to address challenges in field data collection and to brainstorm cyberinfrastructure solutions to make field data collection easier, more efficient, and more likely to result in useful long-term data preservation.

My own work encompasses both laboratory experiments and fieldwork on active sediment transport processes.  Through my engagement with SEN (Sediment Experimentalists Network), I have already thought substantially about laboratory issues, so participation in the EC3 trip gave me a chance to think more about field data.  To my somewhat surprise, the idea of “fieldwork” varies vastly among domains.  Whereas fieldwork for me primarily encompasses collection of instrumental time series records, during the EC3 trip the focus was on mapping of geological structures and stratigraphy.

Despite my somewhat outsider status, I learned several lessons from the EC3 field trip, which I hope to share with the SEN community:

1)   The most effective development of geoscience cyberinfrastructure occurs when software developers and geoscientists are tied together at every step of the development process.  Otherwise, there is a danger that computer tools will not be compatible with the way that scientists actually do their work.  For example, tablet-based apps might one day replace the field notebook, but only if they accommodate the free-form sketches that don’t fit neatly into metadata categories.
2)   Research progresses in an unpredictable, heterogeneous, iterative, and “messy” way that makes the adoption of uniform, comprehensive cyberinfrastructure and database tools impossible.  I could see this in how much my concept of “fieldwork” differed from other workshop participants.  Rather than seeking a grand solution to all of our data problems, we’re better off building smaller-scale solutions for specific applications, then linking these applications through semantics, i.e., clear, machine-readable assignments of meaning that allow computers to link together heterogeneous databases into shared resources.
3)   Computer scientists actually enjoy our data problems and view them as research challenges!  They are not simply contractors for hire to build specific pieces of software.  As geoscientists, we can view work with computer scientists as research collaboration, which includes applying for grants together and writing papers together.  This will also make the development of cyberinfrastructure feel more like fun and less like a chore.  The EARTHTIME project is one great example of the synergies to be found between geoscientists and computer scientists.

These lessons are my own personal opinions, and I’m open to debate with those who might disagree!  I encourage comments on these ideas and perhaps even further blog posts by members of the Sediment Experimentalist Network on this topic of development of cyberinfrastructure for the geosciences.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

DEADLINE EXTENDED: SEN AGU Graduate Student/Early Career Travel Grants

The graduate student and early career travel grant contest deadline has been extended to October 15th!  We are sponsoring a data-sharing contest for those who feel passionate about making their data public (more details below). The top three winners will be awarded travel grants in the amount of $1000 for use towards the 2015 AGU Fall Meeting.  Post your entries to and submit your application!


The Sediment Experimentalist Network (SEN) is sponsoring a data-sharing contest for graduate students and early career scientists who feel passionate about making their data public. The top three winners will be awarded travel grants in the amount of $1000 for use towards the 2015 American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting.

The Sediment Experimentalist Network (SEN) is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) EarthCube program as a Research Coordination Network (RCN). SEN integrates the efforts of sediment experimentalists to build a knowledge base for data collection and management. The network facilitates cross-institutional collaborative experiments and communicates with the research community about data and metadata guidelines for sediment-based experiments. This effort aims to improve the efficiency and transparency of sedimentary research for field geologists and modelers as well as experimentalists. More information is available here:

The contest will be judged on the quantity and quality of participation in the SEN Knowledge Base (, which contains data catalog entries and descriptions of experimental setups, methods, equipment. To begin, create an account on the website and then start creating entries for your experiments. The more entries, the more likely you are to win!


This contest is open to current graduate students and early career scientists (within 5 years of graduating) who are interested in helping make data more accessible.


1.    Sign up for the SEN Newsletter:
2.    Create a Knowledge Base account at
3.    Start posting entries of your experimental data, set-ups, methods, and equipment.
4.    Send a one-page document to as described below 

Contest Entry

To enter the contest, please send a one-page document containing contact information, short professional biography, and a list of your SEN Knowledge Base entries to 

Selection of Winners

Winners will be selected on the quality (completeness of entry) and quantity (total number of entries) of entries to the SEN Knowledge Base. Winners will be notified via email and will be given instructions on the funding process. Names of winners will also be featured in the upcoming SEN Newsletter. Winners should acknowledge funding from NSF SEN when presenting their work at AGU.

REVISED Timeline

June 15th: Contest opens
October 15th: All entries must be received
November 1st: Notification of winners

Questions? Please contact SEN at