Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Search Challenge (12/24/14): Where's the lake with the...

Quick reminder:  I'm going to be mostly away for the next couple of weeks.  As promised, today's Challenge is a bit more challenging than most during the past year.  

First, let me present the Challenges, then give a couple of hints.  

There are three pieces to this Challenge. Both wrapped in a bit of a murder mystery story, just to get your creative juices flowing and to keep you motivated over the next couple of weeks.    

The story: 
Little Rob was found dead of unknown causes in his apartment.  Near his body were scattered the contents of the rucksack he was packing, clearly anticipating a trip to the mountains.  In the pack was a vial of Acetazolamide pills, lots of fishing gear, and a road map of northern California.  For food he only had breakfast and lunch, so the suspicion for the murder falls on his hiking partner, Big Jim, who dropped one packet of freeze-dried dinner on his way out the front door.  There is also a list of larger lakes and reservoirs that have recently been stocked, with several circled as places to go fishing. Unfortunately, the piece of paper was torn in half, with most of the information missing.  

Your job is to try and find Big Jim.  Given what you know, you decide to start your search on high-altitude lakes in California that have been stocked with fish.  

1.  Can you find all of the lakes and reservoirs in California that have been stocked with fish in 2014, in Northern California, and are above 8,000 feet in elevation?  
2.  Since you know they're interested in fishing in larger lakes, can you find those Californian lakes more than 8,000 feet high that are also greater than 500 acres in surface area?  
3.  How do you know that Little Rob and Big Jim were planning on fishing at high altitude?  


This is one of those problems that sounds crazy hard, but once you know how to do it, doesn't take that long to do.  

So the question comes in two parts:  (a) What information do you need?  (b) How can you handle this information to answer the questions?  

A couple of hints to guide you: 

  If you're doing it one-lake-at-a-time, you're doing it wrong.  It'll take you roughly forever to find all the lakes of California, then find the altitude, then find whether or not they'd been stocked in 2014.  
 You probably need a tool to help you with this.  What kind of tool could you use?  (And just as importantly, how would you figure out what this tool is?)  

You might want to chat amongst yourselves this week as you tackle this problem.  I know it sounds impossible, but it's not as crazy as it seems.

My real goal in this Challenge is to show you a new way to gather, collect, and organize data that you can find in your searches.  Once you've found this way, you'll have another powerful tool in your SearchResearch armamentarium.  


  1. Good Morning and Happy Christmas Eve, Dr. Russell.

    The Challenge sounds amazingly fun and very interesting. Thanks for doing it.

    Will you create a forum to post our answers and chat while you are away?

    Have an amazing Christmas, Holiday Season and the best trip.

    I also wish the best New Year 2015 for you, your family and all SearchResearchers.


  2. Wishing all the Search Researchers a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season! This looks like a really interesting challenge. I will probably not get a chance to work on this until Friday. We have a houseful of company here- our daughter and her fiance in from England, our son is back for the holidays from Austin Tex. and our daughter's fiance's parents and sister are also visiting from England. This may give me something to keep me busy on Friday!

  3. Seasons Greetings Searchers.

    Another curious problem. My first source to check was

    California Fish and Game. It has a lovely searchable map with clickable details re altitude and size of whatever you click on and we search by stocked waters which they call "planted". And it has easily downloadable date tables. This, I thought, is it. But not for me.

    I believe the only area that can have lakes above the Scholarly High Elevation of 8000 feet/2400m is Sierra Nevada mountains. People have been very careless in planting fishes of alien species in CA.

    I thought of the National Parks and Forests. Parks are not allowed to be planted. But CA does plant Forest areas for the Feds.

    A lengthy but interesting history is this:

    Non-Native Trout in Natural
    Lakes of the Sierra Nevada:
    An Analysis of Their
    Distribution and Impacts on
    Native Aquatic Biota

    That is all I can do for a couple of days.

    Jon tU

  4. Happy Holidays
    My search ended with Mammoth lakes in the Sierra Nevada region. The only catch was two limitations:
    - surface area for the Mammoth lakes is less than the search criteria (500+)
    -none of the lakes have been restocked in the past eight weeks :-(

    I went into the elevation data ( to try and refine search for water bodies with elevations of more than 8000ft elevation but it gave me the dreaded 'HTTP error 404'
    ...the search continues...happy new Year to other Search Researchers