Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) has an extremely intelligent and dedicated workforce who are also passionate about the ecosystem around the range.
“I get calls a couple times a week from folks downrange who make an observation,” explains YPG’s Wildlife Biologist Daniel Steward.
This dedication leads to employees going above and beyond to solve a problem. So was the case when Range Operations Lead Darrell Williams reached out to YPG’s Meteorological team to ask if they could help the Arizona Department of Game and Fish (AZDGF) with remotely monitoring wildlife water station tank levels.
Williams works closely with the YPG Environmental Sciences Division and the Meteorology Division, and they all work with AZDGF. Every few weeks the department flies over YPG’s ranges to check on wildlife and the water stations. AZDGF monitors more than 25 wildlife waters on YPG alone.
Williams noticed that because of YPG’s busy firing schedule sometimes it was difficult for AZDGF to make their scheduled flights. Additionally, in those weeks between the flights there was no way to know if a tank had an issue. Those water stations are instrumental in sustaining wildlife. “That’s part how we are able to sustain those high numbers that we are to be able to support sheep re-location by AZGFD to support bighorn populations statewide,” explained Steward.
Williams had an idea and made the call to the Meteorological team. “I talked to the Met guys and said ‘do those pressure transducers work on the tanks.’ They said yes.”
The pressure sensors work much like the sensors used to measure the water in washes around YPG’s range. Because YPG has a very large range with remote locations that need to be monitored, there are sensors to alert when washes are running during a storm.
Ryan Ingham and Cory Olsen, Electronics Technicians with the Meteorology Division at YPG, took that pressure senor and installed it in four of the AZDGF wildlife water tanks. Ingham comments that the installation was not difficult… it was accessing the tanks that was the challenge. “Some of these drinkers we had to go in by helicopter to bring in the equipment. Some we had to hike to, some are a few miles round trip. So we had to carry all the equipment up the mountain range.”
Ingraham began monitoring the pressure data in the tanks and converting the pressure into depth in inches. He provides this data to AZDGF weekly.
In early July Ingham noticed a two inch drop in one tank. He notified AZDGF and they hiked out to the Chocolate Mountains that weekend. They found a broken pipe probably caused by two sheep who were horsing around, which in turn drained the tank. The team was also surprised to find 16 big horn sheep milling around …presumably in search of water.
The alert of the drop in water saved their lives, said Steward. “This time of year they really depend on that water” adding “If you let them go dry you are going to lose animals.”
Steward is very proud to share this story because it illustrates just how dedicated individuals can make an impact. “Our workforce is passionate about the outdoors and these type of innovations bring these type of tools to bear.”