Rural System's

Inquire: The Unified Laboratory

Within Rural System the word "research" is rarely used. The Staff are users of the results of studies and investigations. Research means many things, even to one person. Too many! The concept used is that of building a knowledge base and that can be done in many ways. Inputs are needed for decisions. The better the quality of the input, the better. Classical science is one way to gain inputs...but only one way, and perhaps over weighted. The staff continues to explore alternatives such as expert estimates, alternative probability theory and new concepts of confidence and risk-taking, game theory, simulation, genetic algorithms for optimization (of sampling), area- and volume-proportional sampling, Wolfram "new science" and the rationally robust paradigm. (A suggested site for the latest research information is the journal Nature.)

Early in the development of the Rural System there will be little (or no) formal research. Later, staff will be encouraged to identify important topics and to seek alternative ways to obtain improved answers for them. Badgersett Research Farm in Minnesota presents an alternative worthy of study. Studies will typically be formulated with assistance where, feasible, from Virginia Tech Faculty and elsewhere. Where funds for studies may be gained, staff will support the efforts, contribute where possible, and when the initiator, will seek to gain the typical overhead fees usually associated with agency or foundation grants.

We are especially eager to support the World Bank's strategy of strengthening analytical and advisory activities and services. The services are often limited or changing, those needing them have poor access, and results need to be carefully and appropriately used.

The staff are mindful of comments such as those in IITA Research #8, March 1994 which said of National Agricultural Research groups that

to be most effective as partners must find mechanisms to identify priorities in constraints, research problems and training needs, allocate resources and responsibilities among themselves, and increasingly measure success in terms of outcomes. If they do not, the continued erosion of donor support is inevitable.

A Unified Laboratory to serve all of the units of the Rural System and to sell services locally will be studied.

Perhaps affiliation with or parallel work with Matson's Laboratory, LLC , Montana, might be arranged. They determine the age of deer and bear from tooth-annuli and tetracycline markers.

Stability of service, rapid response, avoiding the "stored and lost" field collections, modern equipment, rapid statistical analyses, easy movement of information to GIS, "seizing the opportunity" rather than missing the knowledge in an event - they are the products and contributions of the Unified Lab.

It works to improve VITA (see below), a soil change and decomposition measurement substance proposed as a product to be marketed.

It does analyses for the goat herd (milk, nutrition, blood, and also relations of goats to deer and evaluates use of goats as an experimental animal and as a deer surrogate) and goose flocks.

It does or arranges for genetic analyses (DNA, etc.) of regional species and subspecies; meta population analyses; and for Security and Safety work.

There are 28 "biodiversity" laws (1995). Many people want to know what is on their land. Surveys are costly, poorly done, unbalanced (e.g., emphasizing expert knowledge of birds, nothing about reptiles). Many plans need them; environmental impact assessments and statements need them. We have developed techniques for meaningful rapid studies with statistical expressions and automated reports. We'll maintain a small crew and market this service for military bases, private landowners, corporations, and state and federal lands. This is a new "assault force" concept - a team arrives on a target area with a preliminary computer report (regional database), computer maps, a statistical sampling strategy on a GIS, a set of tested sampling procedures, a timing strategy, and a report well-grounded in statistical theory, ecology, and the law. A survey crew operates out of the Unified Lab. In "down time" (weather, etc.), databases are developed, techniques perfected, software and report improvements prepared.

The lab automates soil analyses and produces a unique, very comprehensive report from a soil sample and associated data. Future work may include developing a NovoSoil, an amendment for garden and trail-side solid (related to the Walnut Vales). Specialty combinations of wastes for select purposes may be designed in the future. Some of the wastes may be used for heating. Ash, tested, may become part of the new soil for select areas.

The design is for a rapid, cost-effective system that maximized information per unit effort and user cost, and achieves a modest profit. This project employs local people, uses local on-site expert knowledge and equipment, uses expert systems theory, and produces a unique report for each sample (The Trevey concept applied at a very small scale.) Rather than wait for samples to arrive, the lab through System Central markets intensively the system and services.

The unique hand-held field computer is used with GPS to produce maps and reports that pay-off in fertilizer/lime savings for the average farm, or other area in 2 years. A CD-ROM on soil ecology will be produced as part of the marketing strategy.

It assists in the Butterfly Band, the entomology group.

It creates an automated food habits analysis function and markets this service after serving the Wild Turkey Group. Refinements are made in Windeys, the groundwind monitors.

Secondary chemicals are recognized as major new factors influencing food digestibility in grouse, deer, and other animals. Improving these analyses so that forage analyses (precise metabolizable energy, calcium, phosphorous, and nitrogen) can be made and mapped in the GIS will provide indispensable knowledge for superior management and ultimately a national leadership role.

Water analyses for The Fishery, especially those for pH, phosphorous, colors, and sediments, will be invaluable.

New heat and pressure processing developed at Va Tech will be used to "explode" walnut hulls and waste seeds (grape), tannins etc. extracted, and materials developed as a trail and roadside organic herbicide.

A specialty product useful in getting an index to the rate of decomposition and nutrient cycling in ecosystems is in the design stage (see Vita ). It has potential for a variety of sales in the future and these will enhance the financial base of the Group and Lasting Forests.

NovoSoils will grow to provide computer-based soil analyses, county level soil maps, and a series of soils for in-place gardens. Advice will become available for difficult restoration areas. Special programs will become available for mined-land restoration but initial work is concentrated on the grounds, gardens, and roadsides. Temperature and pressure-expanded materials (chips, walnut hulls, and leaf-collections) will be studied as soil components.

An energy production component for geothermal heat pumps may be offered, one that utilized Earth-heat as well as the heat from decomposing products...and maintains the heat of decomposing beds at a desired level throughout the year.

Some support for local food suppliers and kitchens will provide baseline monitoring and reduce insurance-related claims and judgments.

Summer volunteers, planned "university independent studies", and a university graduate student camp (a "tent city") near the lab will allow creative, directed, knowledge base work to proceed. The Lab cannot fund many projects but can offer:

  1. meaningful projects
  2. a chance to make a difference within the world of nature and the environment and for personal efforts to be used
  3. a chance to work in an educational environment
  4. to continue learning
  5. to combine lab and some field work
  6. to learn diverse methods
  7. to improve an employment resumé
The Lab contains a "coffee room" designed to encourage serious, prolonged, knowledge-base-building conversations. (This is not a seminar area.)

The Wired Ecosystem

For later development ... Many studies have been conducted of ecosystems and monitoring of temperature and other factors is well known and abundantly used. The Wired Ecosystem is not a study area. It is a small learning space. Data are rarely recorded (and left for later analysis which is rarely done or done well) in this place. It is a place where people interested in and educated about ecology can come to "see" the ecosystem. It is equivalent to a microscope, showing what the unaided eye cannot see...all at once.

"You are here, now" is a spot on the floor when you enter and the "now" signifies the temporal dimension that stretches out across one side of the room with world time zones, geologic time periods, and scale relations for the recent period and that since the end of the Pleistocene. Time since twilight is augmented with cumulative degree days in the year and growing period.

A wall of monitors and oscilloscopes display:

  1. Stream flow
  2. Stream depths
  3. Temperatures throughout the area and in many layers of the forest
  4. Wind directions and velocities
  5. Precipitation, evaporation pan levels, and soil moisture
  6. Barometric pressure
  7. Cumulative radiation
  8. a forest view through an untra-violet filter
  9. An infra red view
  10. Automated dendrometer readings
  11. Gross movements within the area (mammals, birds, etc.)
  12. National weather data are seen from a web site
  13. Other active national data banks are addressed.

The working concept or objectives for the place are to help people know about the wired or well-automated ecosystem, to comprehend the multidimensional nature of the place, to formulate hypotheses about relationships seen, and to evaluate the probably usefulness of sampling. This is a place for observers, for watchful patience. This is where the "land doctor" of Aldo Leopold might be able to see a "work-up" on the "land patient." This is not unlike a NASA analysis of a distant landscape using sensors or many types and trying to understand the land without humans being present or doing destructive sampling.

It can be used as an educational space. It can be a specialized tourist attraction. It is a place where a few can learn about ecological monitoring and information display. Automated flyovers of the GIS-depicted 3-D area are continuously shown on a large screen. These are from various directions, season, and with topography shown in various scales. Some simulations (e.g., fire; climate change) are also shown (or are available) on request.

See Wildlife Study Designs \(April 2001, 255 pages, Springer-Verlag, ISBN 0-387-95118-0, $69.95), by Michael L. Morrison, William M. Block, M. Dale Strickland, and William L. Kendall).

See Nutrient Management Options for counties of the region, at least serving consultants getting service grants. as in ...2005 announcement for Pennsylvania...

3. Purpose: The Natural Resources Conservation Service is seeking a cooperative agreement to provide nutrient management planning and evaluation services with farmers in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Work will include: development of conventional Nutrient Management plans that meet NRCS Field Office Technical Guide standards for Nutrient Management (590); provision of field-specific nitrogen application recommendations for corn based on a Pre-Sidedress Nitrogen Test (PSNT) or Early-Season Chlorophyl meter test; and evaluation of the effectiveness of the nitrogen application recommendations using cornstalk nitrate testing at the end of the growing season. Work will be done with selected farmers in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania who are cooperating with NRCS in the "Lancaster Farms" project to develop and implement Nutrient Management plans and recommendations with emphasis on improved management of nitrogen The awardee must be a certified Technical Service Provider (TSP) by October 1, 2005. It is expected that this agreement will be awarded by September 30, 2005. Information regarding certification requirements may be viewed at by clicking on the link entitled "Technical Service Provider Registry (TechReg)." 4. Action: Notice of Requests for Proposals. 5. Summary: Title 16 United States Code Sections 590a-590f and Title 7 Code of Federal Regulations part 610 authorizes providing conservation technical assistance to eligible participants. The NRCS is soliciting for entities to provide services as described below. 6. Description: This successful awardee of this project will be responsible for activities such as: A. Develop Nutrient Management plans that meet NRCS Field Office Technical Guide standards for Nutrient Management (590). Provide copy of plan to the participating farmer and to NRCS. Plans are to be completed within 60 days of receiving notice. Estimated workload: Approximately 10 to 20 farms per year for a total estimated acreage of 5,000 to 10,000. B. Develop field-specific nitrogen application recommendations at the beginning of the growing season, based on either a Pre-Sidedress Nitrogen Test (PSNT) or Chlorophyl meter test, using protocols accepted by Pennsylvania State University or other protocol as approved by NRCS in Pennsylvania. Responsible for taking samples, submitting samples to Penn State Agricultural Analytical Lab or other lab as approved by NRCS. Coordinate procedures for making recommendations with project partners including NRCS and NRCS’s Designated partners. Estimated workload: Approximately 10 to 20 farms per year. The total acreage for this segment is estimated at 7500 - 9500 acres. C. Use corn stalk nitrate testing at end of growing season to evaluate nitrogen fertilization program, using protocols accepted by Pennsylvania State University or other protocol as approved by NRCS in Pennsylvania. Responsible for taking samples, submitting samples to Penn State Agricultural Analytical Lab or other lab as approved by NRCS. Estimated workload: Approximately 10 to 20 farms per year. The total acreage for this segment is estimated at 7500 - 9500 acres. D. Provide NRCS with a summarized data sheet showing results of above work items, testing, evaluations and recommendations on a quarterly basis for active projects. This item is not to be separately priced.

Vita or Ecorods

Concept: Vita (as in "vital or having life") is a small plastic item for sale. They are disks or rods of a known weight and when placed in an ecosystem are "decomposed" by soil organisms. The rate of change is an index to the vitality of the system. It is useful in ecosystem education, research, for evaluating progress in cleanup, and for expressing before/after effects of water discharge, pesticides, radioactive fallout, or pollution.

Under design for years, the product has not been patented. I propose to produce the project in a lab on-site, gaining invaluable assistance from local chemists and engineers. The Vita component of the enterprise would then market the product which has use in ecology education, forest monitoring, use of pesticides (before/after analyses), waste area clean-up and reclamation, and in many other situations (even ruminant animal digestion studies). A patent will be sought. Product development is Year 1; field use in first half of Year 2; then marketing


See Laboratory suggestion for the 2005 George Washington National Forest plan.

Perhaps you will share ideas with me about some of the topic(s) above .

Rural System
Robert H. Giles, Jr.
July 3, 2005