Thursday, December 12, 2013

Virtual Eyes to See Aquatic Resources in 3D

One of the biggest challenges to understanding aquatic resources are the optical properties of water and an inability of our human eyes to see the complex world that lurks beneath the surface.  In contrast, when "aeroplanes" (that's what they were called in the Wright Brother's days) first took flight in the early 1900's and pilots figured out how to fix cameras to the belly to take aerial photos, it opened up a new world of exploration for biologists and foresters studying terrestrial landscapes.  The term "landscape" got a whole new meaning.

Needless to say, aquatic resource managers and researchers have lagged behind our landlubber counterparts in understanding how aquatic organisms relate to "aquascapes."  Fisheries biologists have long dropped their nets into an abyss and magically, fish appeared when they pulled them up the next day.  Or, a rake/grapple thrown from a boat at a handful of transects or sampling points was the extent of the sophistication that biologists used to characterize plant growth in the littoral zone of lakes.  Biologists and researchers through the years have grown quite skilled at developing fancy statistical models to make sense of these messy, imprecise data.

Technology is now cleaning up the messiness of aquatic resource data and bringing in a new level of intuitive sophistication and precision.  Advancements in consumer sonar like Lowrance HDS with StructureScan give the researcher an ultra-sound-like picture of the environment they are studying in a small, rugged, and affordable package.

DownScan, StructureScan, Down Scan, Structure Scan Lowrance, ciBioBase
DownScan Imagery of small sunfish hovering over Eurasian watermilfoil plants in Prior Lake, MN as viewed in the ciBioBase Trip Viewer
Lowrance, StructureScan, Side-scan
Side-scan image of boulders, gravel, and sand from a river in Pointe Au Baril, Ontario Canada from a Lowrance HDS8 Gen 2 LSS-1 Transducer.  For a large image library of other impressive StructureScan Images, just go to Google Image and type in "Lowrance StructureScan"
Advancements in cloud computing via ciBioBase has enabled your 8-yr old laptop to do super computer processing tasks and you don't need a hard drive the size of a closet to store your data. Centralization and automation of industry-standard acoustic data processing tasks creates visually intuitive maps and spatial datasets that are uniform across data collectors and geographical areas.  And, to top it off, your maps are often finished processing quicker than it takes you to make a pot of coffee after returning from the field.

Finally, third party spatial analysis and visualization platforms like those powered by ESRI (e.g., ArcGIS and associated plug-ins, ArcScene, etc) can take your BioBase datasets to the next level by opening up a wide range of advanced analysis and visualization tools.  For instance in the two embedded videos, we demonstrate two outputs derived from the Lowrance HDS -> ciBioBase -> GIS chain of analysis that give the aquatic researcher/manager a birds-eye view of the environment they are managing.  GIS for the aquatic researcher is now more than putting dots on a map.  Time to play some catch up...

YouTube demo of ESRI ArcScene Fly Through of the North Umpqua River upstream to Lake Lemolo in West Central Oregon.  Digital Elevation Data were obtained from the USGS National Map Viewer and Lemolo Bathymetric data were collected with Lowrance HDS by Joe Eilers, MaxDepth Aquatics Inc. Bend, OR and processed through ciBioBase.


ESRI's ArcScene is used to create a 3D view of a kelp forest mapped with  Lowrance HDS by Rick Ware Coastal Resources Management Inc., Corona Del Mar, CA.  Date were processed with ciBioBase, exported, and then brought into ArcScene.