Tuesday, October 29, 2013

New Survey Findings: Use of Geographic Information Systems by Fisheries Management Agencies

Recently Brandon Eder from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Ben Neely from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism published some interesting findings in Fisheries pages 491-495 regarding the use of GIS in fisheries management agencies in the US and Canada (see abstract below).  Technology is opening horizons and aquatic resource practitioners now have a variety of intuitive tools at their disposal to characterize and describe the complex spatial environments they are charged with managing.

Better characterization and description of aquatic environments leads to better management decisions and public welfare.  How can we promote more academic training and utilization of GIS tools for aquatic resource practitioners?  Eder and Neely have some advice that is worth a read.

ABSTRACT: Use of geographic information systems (GIS) in fisheries science has increased in prevalence since its introduction in the late 1980s, but use among and within fisheries management agencies has not been quantified. We surveyed 89 administrators of fisheries management agencies in the United States and Canada to determine the current status of GIS in fisheries management and received 54 responses (61% return rate). Survey respondents indicated that GIS was used to help manage fish populations, and 63% of respondents believed that GIS was either “very useful” or “extremely useful” for meeting agency objectives. However, most GIS work conducted by fisheries management agencies was executed by few individuals within the agency or by contracted service. Barriers preventing more widespread use by managers within agencies included lack of knowledge or training and limited time to use GIS in job duties. Our results suggest that GIS is an important tool for fisheries management. Further, GIS use within an agency might be increased by focusing on increased biologist participation in training exercises, integration with existing job duties, and recognizing diversity among GIS software.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Guest Blog: Precision aquatic plant assessment and management in Michigan Lakes

By Jennifer L. Jermalowicz-Jones

Restorative LakeSciences is actively involved in the management and restoration of nearly 60 lakes in the state of Michigan and on water bodies in other states such as California and Wisconsin.  As an innovative specialty firm of advanced-degreed limnology experts, our goal is to provide thorough educational training to lake communities while using the most innovative technologies for lake improvements.  ciBioBase software (Contour Innovations, LLC) in combination with the Lowrance® HDS8 side- and down-scanning capabilities allows us to precisely determine the biovolume of the submersed aquatic vegetation in inland lakes.  Additionally, it also assists in the determination of individual aquatic vegetation bed areas that are mapped by aquatic botanists to be treated precisely with systemic or contact aquatic herbicides or with other removal technologies (Figure 1).  This technology has resulted in highly effective reductions of nuisance aquatic vegetation biovolume and bed densities due to the precision of treatments.  As a result, all of our lake management communities have been satisfied with the strategy and can easily see significant progress within a single season.
Restorative Lake Sciences, Evans Lake, Michigan, ciBioBase, BioBase, Eurasian watermilfoil, mapping, aquatic plants
Figure 1. ciBioBase aquatic vegetation heatmap collected by Grant Jones, Field Operations Manager, Restorative Lake Sciences (left) and Eurasian watermilfoil beds delineated with companion species surveys and the ciBioBase polygon tool.  Polygons were exported from ciBioBase and uploaded to Google Earth.
Jennifer L. Jermalowicz-Jones, MS, Ph.D Candidate, is the Water Resources Director at Restorative Lake Sciences and oversees over nearly 60 inland lake projects which include aquatic vegetation mapping and management, lake sediment reduction studies and management, algal quantification and identification and algal management programs, and watershed management programs.  She has over 24 years of experience in lake research and management and is pursuing her doctoral degree from Michigan State University in Water Resource Management.  She is also the President of the Michigan Chapter of the North American Lake Management Society, serves as the Science Advisory Chair on the Michigan Lake and Stream Associations Executive Board of Directors, has won numerous awards and grants for her aquatic ecosystem research, and has presented numerous papers at state and national conferences on water resource and lake management.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Amendment to ciBioBase Guest Blog: GIS Tools helping CAP manage sedimentation

Earlier this year, Senior Biologist Scott Bryan from the Central Arizona Project (CAP) blogged about how the CAP is using ciBioBase to manage sedimentation in Arizona's lifeblood 336-mile aqueduct.  Since then, CAP GIS Wizard Glenn Emanuel has worked some amazing magic on the ciBioBase grid exports using Spatial and 3D Analyst Extensions for ArcGIS (Figure 1).
Central Arizona Project, sedimentation, Lowrance, ciBioBase, BioBase, sonar, mapping, acoustics
Figure 1. Images showing the change in sediment volume prior to and after experimental dredging activities in a Forebay of the CAP canal.  The Raster Calculator in ArcGIS's Spatial Analyst was used to subtract a "current" bathymetry from a baseline bathymetry (e.g., "as built") to estimate sediment height and volume.  Images are 3-dimensionally enhanced using 3D Analyst for ArcGIS. Image courtesy of Scott Bryan and Glenn Emanuel, Central Arizona Project
The data and images allow CAP to make informed decisions regarding the efficiency of sediment removal operations.  In addition, ArcScene was used to produce a 3D scene of the forebay (Figure 2), which can then be animated with a video fly-through.

Central Arizona Project, sedimentation, ciBioBase, ArcScene, Lowrance, BioBase, sonar, mapping, acoustics
Figure 2. "Fly-through" images of sediment height  in Little Harquahala Forebay in the CAP Canal collected by Lowrance HDS sonar and GPS, ciBioBase cloud processing software, and finally exported/imported into ArcScene.  Image courtesy of Scott Bryan and Glenn Emanuel, Central Arizona Project.
Any user of ciBioBase properly equipped with the proper third party GIS software can create these amazing map products that are more than just pretty pictures.  They create a real-life, tangible perspective of aquatic resource conditions that ciBioBase users are interested in managing, protecting, and restoring.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Getting good BioBase EcoSound outputs depends on a good transducer mount!

EcoSound is a powerful and intuitive aquatic resource data processing engine that professionals across the globe are coming to recognize.  However, the quality of automated outputs greatly hinge on a proper Lowrance transducer mount.  If the transducer is off at an angle, the acoustic cone will intercept bottom at an angle and will falsely read depth, bottom composition/hardness, and vegetation height (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Example sonar log from a transducer face that is not 180 degrees with bottom as seen in Lowrance's SonarViewer

Strategies for installing your transducer.
There are a wealth of online resources via YouTube, Google, and our own blog series (for example see our portability blog) about proper transducer mounts.  Just search "Lowrance Transducer Installation" and you'll have a wealth of self-help resources at your disposal.  An output from a properly mounted transducer should look like Figures 2 and 3 where the bottom signal is clearly distinguishable from aquatic vegetation.
Figure 2.  Screen shot from a Lowrance HDS7 Gen2 Touch of a clear bottom signal and submerged aquatic vegetation from a properly mounted 200 kHz skimmer transducer.
Figure 3.  Example of what a clear 200 kHz signal over a vegetated bottom looks like in the EcoSound Trip Replay screen.
Often, aquatic vegetation grows to the surface of lakes and one of the unique strengths of EcoSound is that the vegetation detection algorithm recognizes conditions that appear to be surface growing vegetation and classifies the growth as such (i.e., biovolume = 100%).  Still, in order for the algorithm to function in these environments, some signal must periodically pass through the vegetation canopy and get "peaks" at bottom deeper than 2.4 ft (EcoSound minimum depth for vegetation mapping; Figure 4).  If you are mapping areas shallower than this depth, you can add manual vegetation coordinates to unmapped areas (see a CI YouTube video on how to do this)
Figure 4.  Example of a good signal in surface growing vegetation.  The bottom still tracks occasional depths of greater than 2.4 feet.  Long periods of no depth signal or depths less than 2.4 feet will result in unmapped areas and will require manually adding vegetation coordinates to your EcoSound output.
Monitor SONAR screen while you map
Because having a clear transducer signal is so critical for quality EcoSound data and map products we recommend that users verify a clear Sonar signal in an open water area prior to logging.  Drive your boat at different speeds and evaluate at what speed "slivers" start to appear in the bottom signal (Figure 5).  These slivers represent acoustic "misses" and typically result from cavitation of water around the transducer face.  Periodic slivers or misses while recording are ok, but we recommend that users monitor their SONAR page and take measures to minimize these disturbances (e.g., slow down or adjust the depth of the transducer a few inches - sometimes that's all it takes).

Figure 5. An example of where the acoustic signal "missed" the bottom target (white slivered areas).  These misses typically result from either an improper transducer mount or excessive speed of travel that causes cavitation near the transducer face.
A Transducer Field Checklist
It might be helpful to ask these questions prior or during recording while looking at your SONAR screen and if the answer is yes to any of them, stop recording and make adjustments.
  1. Does the bottom, fish, or plant targets appear slanted?
  2. Does yellow surface clutter extend a long way into the water column and might possibly obscure vegetation target separation?
  3. Is my depth signal flashing or am I getting no digital reading?
  4. Is my range window jumping around indicating it can't find depth?
  5. Am I getting a lot of white slivers in my bottom reading?
Editing your EcoSound output
If bad signal does sneak past your scrutinizing eyes, fear not, you can always edit your output with EcoSound's Trip Replay feature as seen in our YouTube video series.

By installing your transducer correctly and monitoring your output you're almost guaranteed a quality map of lake, river, or coastal habitats with EcoSound.  Contact us at info.biobase@c-map.com to learn more.