Wasatch Environmental Observatory

The Wasatch Environmental Observatory (WEO) integrates existing fixed and mobile field-based research infrastructure in the region surrounding the University of Utah into a world-class distributed observational facility that supports hydrological, meteorological, atmospheric, ecological, and related environmental research and training.

In partnership with management agencies and stakeholders, WEO will catalyze the design of solutions for pressing sustainability challenges. The unique geography of the Wasatch Front allows WEO to span gradients from pristine mountain environments downstream through century-old urban landscapes.  Some of the observational resources integrated into WEO include infrastructure supported by the NSF-funded iUTAH project, while other resources are linked to specific faculty projects that can be leveraged by these broader linkages.

“The instrumentation and observations available through WEO provide unprecedented opportunities for research that addresses the complex challenges of managing water supply, water quality, and the local environment in Utah and semi-arid regions worldwide. The proximity of the water sources in the mountains and the large urban and agricultural environments that need that water just a few miles away means we are able to study the complex interactions between climate, landscape, surface water, groundwater, and society all in the same location. Consequently, the knowledge we gain here working with colleagues across campus and with local stakeholders is applicable to the western US and water stressed regions worldwide.” Paul Brooks, Professor, Geology & Geophysics


Examples of current WEO facilities

  • Six coupled climate and stream ecohydrology stations from the top of Red Butte Canyon to the Jordan River on the Salt Lake Valley floor: Gradient Along Mountain to Urban Transect (GAMUT)
  • Distributed hydroclimate, meteorological, biological and hydrological observations in seven catchments spanning the Wasatch Crest through the Great Salt Lake
  • Experimental stormwater, landscape, transportation, and architectural design infrastructure on campus
  • Long-term ecological, geological, and snow study sites
  • Seven atmospheric trace gas and climate stations from Hidden Peak (Snowbird) to the Salt Lake Valley floor
  • Light rail-based atmospheric observations distributed across land use and elevational gradients in the Salt Lake Valley (TRAX)
  • Deployable and relocatable high-precision atmospheric and hydrologic observation equipment that is used for campaign-mode deployment, including scintillometers, ground penetrating radar, neutron and time domain reflectrometry probes for soil moisture measurements, cosmic ray probes for biomass and soil moisture, tuneable diode lasers for trace gas measurements and isotopic analyses of air and water samples, eddy covariance instruments, meteorological stations, automated water samplers, and portable trace gas infrared analyzers.
  • Co-Located, long-term, and spatially extensive databases from multiple disciplines


Read more in @theU: “The Wasatch Front: a living lab