2020 has been a busy year for BioBase improvements and new feature releases. Previously exclusive to BioBase’s sister consumer mapping platform, C-MAP Genesis, BioBase users can now export their bathymetric, aquatic vegetation heatmap, or bottom hardness map in a file format (AT5) that is compatible with most newer generation Lowrance and Simrad chartplotters. This feature enables researchers and aquatic resource managers to return to surveyed areas of interest and precisely target follow-up surveys or management actions (e.g., strategic taking of water or aquatic plant samples, placement of fish habitat structures or aeration equipment, precision applications of aquatic herbicides, etc.)
In the images and captions below, we’ll walk you through how to do this in your biobasemaps.com account.
Register your Lowrance or Simrad Chartplotter in your BioBase Account
2. Export the GPS Chart file from the desired EcoSound Trip or Merge from BioBase.
3. Unzip the downloaded file and save to a MicroSD card (<32 GB).
At C-MAP, we are excited to announce the release of a new feature that allows users to export exact replicates of their BioBase EcoSound maps as Google Earth images (.kmz and .kml; Figure 1). This YouTube video will walk you through how it’s done.
BioBase processed raw sonar logs and creates habitat maps with sophisticated algorithms. The outputs you see in BioBase are tiled georectified images (.png) of the outputs. The Google Earth feature converts the .png images to Google Earth’s .kml and .kmz file format. .kml downloads are smaller and reference the images on BioBase servers. .kmz downloads are larger and are exact copies of the images stored on our servers. The .kmz option is best for users who wish to archive local copies of their BioBase maps.
These images allow BioBase users to share spatial files with their stakeholders in a free Google format with which many are familiar and use regularly. Recipients can interact with the output zooming in and out to their desire and also adding custom logos and waypoints as they wish (Figure 2).
Further, there are a range of open source tools that will convert .kml and .kmz to GIS files for use in ESRI and QGIS products. Given the popularity and widespread use of .kml and .kmz files, there are a range of other applications that we are eager to hear about. Please feel free to share in the comments below.
Converting EcoSound .kml/.kmz files to ESRI Layers (.lyr)
Special thank you to Kevin Johnson and Jennifer Moran at FL Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for sharing a tutorial about how to convert .kml/.kmz files to ESRI Layer (.lyr) files for analysis and overlays in ESRI GIS products:
Open ArcToolbox > Conversion Tools > From KML > KML to Layer
Input KML File
Toggle to saved .KML file Lake_Kerr_Biobase.kml (example) > Open
Default output location is Documents\ArcGIS > Click the folder icon on right and toggle to appropriate folder
Output Data Name (Optional)
Will typically show the name of the kml, change if preferred
Select Checkbox for Include Ground Overlay (optional)
Only necessary for Raster data. Not necessary for lines/points/polygons
*This will take some time to process/load and will show up in ArcCatalog as “FileName.lyr”. Processing will depend on the file and image size. After it displays in the catalog, drag and drop or select Add Data to display the layer on the map.
**Arc GIS may shut down/disappear. You may not receive a green checkmark for execution completion. Reopen the program and go into your Catalog. Should not need to reconvert from .kml.
Ok, it’s a bit overdue. But better late than never! BioBase customers will now see an updated and enhanced viewer for their EcoSound and EcoSat. No longer will users have to struggle to get their map to fit within the little square box of the old viewer with a Bing zoom level that either zoomed too close and cut off parts of the waterbody, or too far to see detail. Below we show you a few screenshots of the major improvements. You can see for yourself by logging into your own account or clicking the Log into DEMO button on the home page of biobasemaps.com, finding a waterbody of interest, and click on the Analyze/Edit button.
We were excited to see another great paper published by researchers in an esteemed peer-reviewed journal (Aquatic Botany) using BioBase’s EcoSound to demonstrate patterns in aquatic vegetation growth in Idaho’s beautiful Coer d’Alene basin. In addition to being novel work showing how aquatic vegetation rises and falls throughout the year, this work is a precursor to understand how heavy metal contaminants are absorbed and released into waterways. BioBase is a key technology for these researchers to explore this important environmental topic! The paper is referenced online here.
See here for a complete list of peer-reviewed papers using BioBase technology.
Fisheries Scientist Jim Lyons from the UK’s Environment Agency has been in action over the last few months introducing Yorkshire Fisheries Officers to the benefits of the BioBase system. Following two days of survey work on a couple of gravel pit fisheries in the area the team received a report less than a week later. Mike Lee from the local team and the angling clubs who manage the waters, were very impressed with the technique and the report generated. They have come away with a host of ideas about how to further use Lowrance Fish Finders and the Biobase System across their catchment in both river and Stillwater fisheries.
Further Mr. Lyons, recently presented to aquatic plant specialists from the Environment Agency, Natural England and Natural Resources Wales at Preston Montford Field Studies centre as part of the relaunch of the aquatic plant specialist’s network.
Area specialist are responsible for the technical lead for aquatic plant survey delivery within their Area, ensuring that all aquatic plant surveyors are suitably trained and have the relevant support to deliver their surveys. The specialists also play a key role in underpinning the delivery of the quality assurance programme.
Mr. Lyons talked about ‘Using acoustics and cloud-based technology to monitor aquatic weed.’He shared with the group the benefits of using BioBase to inform weed management programmes. Enthusiastic feedback from the group has provided a number of potential new applications for this technology from across the Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) family organisations present.
In the 8+ years BioBase has been in service, we’ve seen our share of sonar logs and maps (both good and bad). We’ve learned some things and improved back-end processes that have resulted in you getting better maps processed faster. But we’ve also learned from you, our users, about strategies and techniques that result in better outcomes, and what to avoid. Here are eight of those lessons learned:
1. Good transducer installation is critical
You could be the most experienced hydrographer in the world and execute the perfect survey design, but your map will be mostly worthless if your transducer is not securely attached to your boat or is slanted at an angle. We’ve devoted a fair amount to this topic in previous blogs, so we won’t dwell on it here. The two key take aways are: 1) ensure the transducer is installed straight in all directions keeping in mind the slant of the hull in the water fully loaded. Replicate that tilt with your tongue jack when installing your transducer. 2) Install the transducer where the flow of water is smooth and laminar over the transducer face at all speeds. If you lose your transducer signal as the boat speeds up, you probably have an issue with cavitation (water turbulence) around the transducer face. Adjust the transducer height (sometimes only a very small amount) or move it away from rivets or anything else near the hull that could cause cavitation. One of the benefits of working with consumer devices like Lowrance and Simrad is that there is a wealth of online self-help resources and service centers that can help you install your transducer correctly. A simple Google Search “Lowrance Transducer Installation” will turn up all the resources you need. This one from Lowrance is one of our favorites. If you have multiple survey boats and want to make your unit portable, I strongly recommend purchasing and installing multiple transducers on all of your boats rather than a portable transducer bracket. In the grand scheme of things, consumer-sonar transducers are cheap and the consistent results you will get from a firmly mounted transducer is worth it!
EcoSat is a first of its kind semi-automated satellite imagery processing tool that’s part of the BioBase cloud mapping platform (Figures 1 and 2). EcoSat is helping several US states and countries map and monitor the status of shallow growing aquatic vegetation and benthic habitats. In this blog, we discuss several tips and tricks about how practitioners can maximize the accuracy and precision of their EcoSat vegetation maps.
We are grateful to the aquatic research community who continue to verify and validate Consumer Sonar Technologies (Lowrance) and BioBase automated mapping platform to produce scientifically valid outputs that benefit aquatic conservation. We are excited to see the recent publication of research out of the University of New Brunswick that evaluated the accuracy and precision of Lowrance and BioBase’s EcoSound depth and vegetation outputs. The research is published in the open access journal Diversity and can be downloaded here. Below is the abstract
The development of consumer hydroacoustic systems continues to advance, enabling the use of low-cost methods for professional mapping purposes. Information describing habitat characteristics produced with a combination of low-cost commercial echosounder (Lowrance HDS) and a cloud-based automated data processing tool (BioBase EcoSound) was tested. The combination frequently underestimated water depth, with a mean absolute error of 0.17 ± 0.13 m (avg ± 1SD). The average EcoSound bottom hardness value was high (0.37–0.5) for all the substrate types found in the study area and could not be used to differentiate between the substrate size classes that varied from silt to bedrock. Overall, the bottom hardness value is not informative in an alluvial river bed setting where the majority of the substrate is composed of hard sands, gravels, and stones. EcoSound separated vegetation presence/absence with 85–100% accuracy and assigned vegetation height (EcoSound biovolume) correctly in 55% of instances but often overestimated it in other instances. It was most accurate when the vegetation canopy was ≤25% or >75% of the water column. Overall, as a low-cost, easy-to-use application EcoSound offers rapid data collection and allows users with no specialized skill requirements to make more detailed bathymetry and vegetation maps than those typically available for many rivers, lakes, and estuaries.
One of BioBase’s strengths is its simplicity. You don’t need an advanced engineering degree in hydrography to make a high quality bathymetric map with an off-the-shelf sonar device. If you have your transducer installed correctly, settings correct on your Lowrance, and achieve good coverage on your waterbody of interest, then BioBase’s EcoSound algorithm will produce a very precise, high quality bathymetric map output within minutes of upload to biobasemaps.com. The speed and ease of bathymetric mapping wins the day for many of our users, but perhaps even more valuable, is the benchmark you are setting for an unknown day in the future when something has changed on the lake and you need to have some “historical” information to understand how much change has taken place
Use Case: Monitoring Sedimentation
One of our most frequently asked questions by new users is “will BioBase measure sediment thickness or the depth of the sludge?” This was a source of a recent blog. Interestingly, the answer is different depending on how long our customers have been using BioBase. For the user who has no prior information about how deep the lake or pond is supposed to be, BioBase may not provide detailed enough information about the actual thickness of the sediment (sediment depth is correlated with EcoSound hardness but it is highly variable; see this blog for further details). However, for the pond management consultant who happened to “BioBase” a client’s pond in 2013 while she happened to be on site for another matter and is now hearing from the client in 2019 that his pond is “filling in,” the answer about whether BioBase can tell him how much sediment has filled in is a most definite yes! For this pond consultant, it was a most fortuitous (or perhaps prudent?) thing that she decided to voluntarily map her clients pond in 2013. Now with a 2019 survey, she can precisely quantify exactly how much sediment has accumulated and where over the 7 years by doing a simple subtraction of the depth and water volume between surveys and comparing maps. The comparison of maps can be done a fancy GIS way like described in this blog. Or a quick and easy way through BioBase (see examples below).
The centralized nature of BioBase (biobasemaps.com) cloud technologies coupled with sophisticated, yet low-cost consumer electronics like Lowrance or Simrad depth sounders/chartplotters have created fertile grounds for developing, testing, and verifying algorithms for typing aquatic environments. The more users upload from a greater range of systems, the more refined algorithms can become addressing a wider range of conditions and use cases!
Early in 2014, we released a revision to our EcoSound bottom composition (hardness) algorithm that is more sensitive and robust in a greater range of depths and bottom conditions. Many outside researchers were involved with collecting important “ground truth” information while they logged their BioBase data. This blog not only serves to describe the new Bottom Composition algorithm, but also publish the results and acknowledge the scientists that helped with this effort.