May 21, 2019
“Today I am talking the Flux Puppy for a walk at @HarvardForest to measure stem respiration,” NAU postdoctoral researcher Tim Rademacher recently tweeted. With it, a photo of a small white chamber fastened to a tree trunk (think half Dixie cup, half electrode) and hooked at the other end to a handheld tablet sporting a clear, clean graph of CO2 in parts per million. The wire between seems charged with symbolic heft: tying paper to its replacement, or connecting old methods to new. The question Rademacher’s tweet triggers—what’s a flux puppy?—arrives simultaneous to that desire all good marketing teams trade in: I don’t know what it is, but I want one.
And thanks to its open-source code, anyone with access to a handheld Android or tablet who wants to measure flux—that is, how much carbon dioxide or water is respired by plants or soil over a given time period—can take Flux Puppy for a spin.
The new ecological app is the brain-pup of a team of undergraduate researchers who worked with Mariah Carbone and Andrew Richardson in the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (Ecoss) and School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems (SICCS) at Northern Arizona University. The four undergraduates—Andrew Greene, Samuel Beals, James Beasley and Joseph Elroy—developed the app as their SICCS senior capstone project. Like all good apps, this one makes a task that was once complicated or cumbersome more user-friendly, portable and therefore better.