December's Sunday with a Scientist program for children and families explored the Platte Basin Time-lapse Project. Visitors learned where water comes from and how it is impacted by natural events and human engineering.
Michael Farrell and Michael Forsberg showcased their work on the Platte Basin Time-lapse Project. This collaborative project uses sophisticated time-lapse photography to show water from the Platte Basin in motion over time. The compressed images allow us to see and understand the natural and manmade processes that impact the Platte River as they unfold over days, months, and even years.
Imagery demonstrated the rise and fall of water from flood stage to drought, how snowpack builds in the Rocky Mountains, how dams and reservoirs move water, the cycle of the seasons in an irrigated cropfield, the change of the seasons on a wet meadow prairie, how cattle use a stock tank in the Sandhills, how sandbars move and how banks erode on the Central Platte, the seasonal use of sandhill crane roosts on sandbars, a restoration process at work on a prairie slough, and more.
Sara LeRoy Toren and students from the LPS Science Focus Program provided hands-on activities that explored watersheds in Nebraska.
The Platte River provides precious water to major portions of three western states: Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming. The modern day Platte is the result of geologic processes caused by retreating glaciers 600,000 to 700,000 years ago and the water management activities that have taken place in the past century. The resulting dams, reservoirs, irrigation canals, and power plants were built primarily as a way of promoting agriculture and settlement in arid areas of the basin and to provide for municipal water, power, and flood control.
Scientists are only now beginning to understand the complex workings of the Platte River and its tributaries. This interconnected system of surface and groundwater is the lifeblood of a natural system that supports myriad plant and animal species, and an economic system that supports hundreds of communities across the region. In the coming decades, new research projects will help unravel the complexities of these natural systems. Our understanding of the geologic and hydrologic histories and present day realities of these systems will evolve just as our reliance on them will increase.
Michael Farrell, television production manager for Nebraska Educational Telecommunications and adjunct professor in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications. Farrell has developed documentaries about the culture, history, and environment of the Great Plains for the past 40 years. For more information, visit www.michaelfarrell.com.
Michael Forsberg, wildlife and conservation photographer and author whose work focuses on the Great Plains of North America. For more information, visit www.michaelforsberg.com.