Professional Spotlight – Andrew Skibo, PhD CLM, Amaruq Environmental

Andrew Skibo Amaruq Environmental Services mapping

Dr. Andrew Z Skibo, PhD CLM (Certified Lake Manager) of Amaruq Environmental Services sat down with the BioBase team to give us some insight on how BioBase’s EcoSound product has become a crucial tool for his work in the Rocky Mountain Region. Dr. Skibo is the president and founder of Amaruq Environmental Services which started in 2015 with two clients in Alaska. Looking for an Alaskan name he chose the Yu’Pik mythological king of wolves, the Amaruq. When a hunter went out alone at night and didn’t return it is said the Amaruq was the reason why, one of the reasons he chose the name was to stay humble and have a reminder “he would not get anywhere without a good network behind him.” After branching out to Colorado, Wyoming and Montana he became a major player in the environmental services industry throughout Alaska and the Rocky Mountain Region. As the president and founder, everything in the company is handled by Skibo from field work and sampling to surveying and contracts.

Amaruq Environmental Services

Amaruq began working with BioBase in 2013 on projects in Alaska and California’s San Joaquin Delta. Like all responsible lake and pond managers, Dr. Skibo will not treat without having good bathymetric and vegetation data of the waterbody. “Having pretreatment water volume and plant biodensity data allows us to dial in our treatment programs beyond basic guess work,” according to Skibo; “having the POST-treatment plant densities  is proof to the clients that we did what we were contracted to do.” BioBase is also a great tool for herbicide/ algaecide prescription development. A few years ago, Amaruq treated a municipal reservoir in Western Nebraska. Before mapping, he had a ballpark prescription together because the reservoir was rebuilt, drained and reshaped. After mapping, BioBase calculated that the volume was 10% less than originally intended and reduced the treatment rate by 10% saving the client several thousand dollars. After treatment Amaruq was within one part per billion (ppb) of targeted application rate  two weeks after application because of the accuracy and precision of BioBase. “To be able to get within one ppb of the target rate two weeks after the application is a huge accomplishment and is part of what sets Amaruq apart from other environmental service companies in the area.”

When the BioBase team asked him how he uses BioBase, he broke his process down into his workflow for us. “My initial use is hyper accurate measurements of water volume as well as a map of plant density and location. We find out where the targets are, how dense they are, and then follow up post treatment to reassess treatment effectiveness. It is one thing to tell the client we did our job, it is another to stand by the lake and show them the concrete proof.” When talking about the impact BioBase has on his work especially in relation to conservation and resource management Andrew said “the areas we operate in are generally all environmentally sensitive, pristine and remote environments in the Western United States;  National Parks to Blue Ribbon trout fisheries. BioBase provides a margin of safety to his operations by relying on the accuracy and detail the maps provide.”

Dr. Andrew Skibo of Amaruq Surveying dialing in his rugged Lowrance HDS that spent hours submerged in the Upper Missouri River the summer prior to this picture being taken.

“The simplicity of use, the reliability of equipment and the fact I can generally teach someone within an hour how to successfully map a pond, it’s dead simple to use the platform” are all reasons Skibo and Amaruq will keep using BioBase in the future. To demonstrate the ruggedness and reliability of the equipment Andrew told us “unfortunately I had just set up a boat for mapping with two brand new HDS units and during deployment we flipped the boat. It sank into the river and was carried three miles downstream, and luckily was recovered by fisherman that day. A week later after recovering the boat he plugged the units in and they continued to function. He doesn’t recommend anyone try it but knows if worst case scenario is to occur,  not all hope is lost!”

Amaruq environmental services surveying river
Surveying the Upper Missouri River
Upper Missouri River Watershed Alliance
A Portion Of The Upper Missouri River Mapped By Aramuq

Andrew and Amaruq are one of the biggest users of BioBase and holds the record today for longest contiguous area mapped, nearly 100 miles of the iconic Upper Missouri River from Holter Dam in Wolf Creek to Great Falls Montana (an area made famous by 18th century explorers Lewis and Clark). BioBase is a central pillar of the Navico Group’s sustainability program and the mapping of the Upper Missouri River Watershed from Amaruq is a marque project for both Amaruq and BioBase because of the impact the data has on the environment, the economy and the people of the area.

Case Study: The Upper Missouri Watershed Alliance

The Upper Missouri Watershed Alliance (UMOWA) is an organization created in 2014 by local citizens concerned for the health and future of the Upper Missouri Watershed. Founded on collecting, validating, and publishing scientific data that has a direct bearing on the health of the river, the UMOWA works closely with the Bureau of Reclamation Hydroelectricity on Holter Dam. Generally by late July/early August the river becomes choked with aquatic vegetation. However, prior to Amaruq and BioBase, a published map of the vegetation and bathymetry of the river didn’t exist.

Aquatic vegetation abundance in the Upper Missouri River in May 2019. BioBase is novel technology that his helping the UMOWA understand and manage the Upper Missouri River

The Bureau simulates a spring flushing by releasing extra water from the dam in hopes of flushing the vegetation and sediments downstream. If you are not familiar, water out West is a dwindling resource and once the water passes the dam they cannot get it back, so every cubic foot of water needs to have a purpose and be accounted for. UMOWA initially contracted Amaruq to collect bathymetry and vegetation density of the first 35 miles of river from the dam to Cascade, Montana. Using BioBase and traditional plant survey techniques such as a point intercept survey, he was able to map the bathymetry, vegetation density and bottom composition all in one survey.

From the initial data, it seemed that the flushing by the Bureau was not actually sending sediments downstream but instead depositing sediments and providing habitat for invasive species to spread. After seeing the maps Amaruq generated for the first 35 miles, North Western Energy asked him to survey the next 67 miles. North Western Energy was then able to put the BioBase data into modeling software to figure out exactly how much water they can put downstream without impacting the community. From this data, it is suggested that the typical 11,000 CFS flushes are not adequate to control rooted populations of aquatic vegetation and should be upwards of 15,000 CFS. Providing this crucial data to the UMOWA and other stakeholders allows the citizen’s scientist groups and Private/State/Federal water managers to make better management decisions for the watershed. The headwaters of the dam brings in millions of dollars in tourist revenues through fly fishing and related support industries annually, with primary focus being on the first 15 miles downstream. If flies are not getting stuck in plant species like White water buttercup and Curlyleaf pondweed, fishermen have a good experience and come back. Not only is the potential to assist with submersed vegetation control a help to the economy of the area, it’s also helping the environment.

An indispensable tool…

“Mapping for me is a tool that is indispensable; we will not begin an herbicide/ algaecide treatment without first having the data we can collect through Biobase. If you are not mapping you are just guessing and in the Rocky Mountain Region there isn’t room for guessing!,” according to Skibo. For more information on Amaruq and the Upper Missouri River Watershed Project visit Amaruq Environmental Services UMOWA and for more information on other professional spotlight interviews such as Professional Spotlight: Santa Cruz Harbor Sediment Mapping visit the BioBase blog.

Author: biobasemaps

BioBase is a cloud platform for the automated mapping of aquatic habitats (lakes, rivers, ponds, coasts). Standard algorithms process sonar datafiles (EcoSound) and high resolution satellite imagery (EcoSat). Depth and vegetation maps and data reports are rapidly created and stored in a private cloud account for analysis, and sharing. This blog highlights a range of internal and external research, frequently asked questions, feature descriptions and highlights, tips and tricks, and photo galleries.

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