Guest Blog: understanding growth patterns of invasive Flowering Rush and Eurasian watermilfoil in the Spokane River System.

Tamara Knudson
Limnologist
Spokane Tribal Fisheries
Airway Heights WA, USA

We recently began collection of baseline data on a small reservoir in northeast Washington State to gain a better understanding of the aquatic community and effects of the hydrological system on the flora and fauna. There is little public access and surveys along this stretch of river are limited. Flowering Rush and Eurasian Watermilfoil, both invasive plant species, have been identified in the reservoir, but distribution fluctuates coincident with changing water elevations and flows. Distribution of the plant community in the reservoir is not well understood. Traditional plant survey methods using the rake method are used to collect submerged plants, but the patches need to be located first. Bathymetric maps used previously were limited and we were looking for a good way to locate and map distribution of vegetation throughout the reservoir. Identification of the vegetation patches would allow us to target specific locations for invasive plant monitoring and inform fish surveys. To accomplish this, we used the Lowrance HDS12 with side and down scan capability. We made several tracks throughout the reservoir to maximize coverage and recorded all our movements on the Lowrance unit. The process was fairly simple…as we drove the boat around the reservoir, we recorded our tracks and saved the files as .sl3 files on the Lowrance unit, and uploaded them to the BioBase website. Once BioBase received the upload, they processed the data and we were then able to obtain bathymetric and vegetation heat maps that included vegetation percent biovolume such as the one shown below.

SpokaneR Vegetation

Since I was new to this product, I had a bit of a steep learning curve. [BioBase Product Expert] Ray Valley provided exceptional technical support in helping resolve challenges we faced during the initial setup and navigating the BioBase output. The outputs that we obtained from BioBase using the data (tracks) we recorded included bathymetry and aquatic distribution heat maps that provided a baseline for future invasive plant monitoring in this reservoir. Since we recorded several tracks, Biobase processed them individually which provides the user with the ability to look at smaller sections or to combine areas into a larger picture. The user should check the outputs to confirm the information provided in the outputs matches known site conditions. This information will be used to guide fish surveys and inform invasive species management in the reservoir. This product performed as promised by BioBase and met our expectations. We found this to be a valuable tool that we will continue to use for additional vegetative mapping and delineation to inform management of invasive species.

New BioBase Feature Alert: Export Depth Contour Shapefiles

BioBase’s primary strength is its power as an automated processing engine delivering high quality geospatial data layers on aquatic habitats with very little user input outside of the physical effort to drive a boat and passively log sonar over an area of interest. In addition to the online analysis tools within BioBase like the polygon tool and automated statistical reports, users can export raw depth, vegetation, and bottom hardness data along their track, in X,Y,Z grid format, Google Earth imagery, Lowrance or Simrad Charts, AND NOW ESRI SHAPEFILES OF DEPTH CONTOURS! This feature has been in high demand for survey companies and governments who require detailed water volume analysis for aquatic habitat and fisheries management. Below we walk you through some helpful tips about the feature and how to use it.

DepthShapefileExportScreenShot
When viewing an EcoSound trip or merge of interest, select Export Data – Depth Shapefiles

Example from a big lake:

BlockFolders
If the trip or merge you are exporting covers more than approximately 500 m in any one direction, you will see multiple folders in the exported .zip file. For speed and performance, BioBase processes outputs in “blocks.”
BlockPolysinQGIS
Example of exported shapefile blocks in Lake Tohopekaliga; a 74 sq. km lake in Florida. Outputs were viewed in the open source GIS program QGIS.

Example from a small pond:

GolfCoursePondBioBase
5.8 acre (24,281 sq. m) pond as viewed in BioBase
GolfCoursePondQGIS
Exported 1ft contours. In this example, exports are completely contained within one block. The user can control whether contours are in imperial or metric, but the values are always stored in metric (e.g., 1ft contour is a value of 0.3048 in the GIS attribute table)
GolfCoursePondDepthPolys
Depth Areas as polygons are also bundled into the zipped export. This will allow the user to carry out detailed water volume analysis as a function of depth with fewer post-processing steps than were originally required when data was only exportable as points.

BioBase continues its mission to deliver water and fisheries resource professionals high value data products in the hopes that you can focus less of your efforts on making maps and more on the important tasks of research and conservation.

Export BioBase EcoSound Maps as Lowrance Charts

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.)

SideBySideVegMaps

In the images and captions below, we’ll walk you through how to do this in your biobasemaps.com account.

  1. Register your Lowrance or Simrad Chartplotter in your BioBase Account
PlotterScreenshot
Assuming you have already recorded your sonar data and successfully uploaded to biobasemaps.com, log into your BioBase account. Click “Plotters”
AddDevice
Add unique details of your chartplotter. This feature is compatible with most newer (newer than 2014) Lowrance and Simrad GPS capable devices (e.g., Lowrance HDS, Elite Ti and Ti2, Simrad GO and Evo)
LowranceSystemAbout
Look in the “About” menu of your Chartplotter. Image above is from a Lowrance HDS Carbon.
SerialContentID
Look for the Serial Number and Content ID alphanumeric code. Enter these into the plotter form on biobasemaps.com

2. Export the GPS Chart file from the desired EcoSound Trip or Merge from BioBase.

ExportAT5
In the Export Data tool, select “GPS Chart Generation”
GPSChartGenerationModal
Export the desired layers

3. Unzip the downloaded file and save to a MicroSD card (<32 GB).

7-ZipAT5
The layer will export as .zip with a random GUID name. The zip file must be unzipped (7-Zip is a great freeware for unzipping files) and the entire contents of the extracted zip file should be copied to a MicroSD card. The contents in the folder are propriety, encrypted files (.AT5) that are specific to the device you registered in your account. The chart file will not work in other non-registered devices. You can register multiple devices. One card can hold multiple AT5 folders (charts) and recorded sonar logs. Cards cannot be larger than 32 GB however.

4. View and Use in your Lowrance or Simrad!

JosephineHeatMap
Insert the card with the saved AT5 chart files. Go to the Chart and select the appropriate Chart Source in Chart Options. Voilà!
JosephineCompositionAT5
Sample bottom hardness map from the same BioBase survey.
ChartCategories
If you want to view a blue- (or custom-) shaded contour map, simply uncheck the Vegetation/Composition categories in one of the Chart menus.
Screenshot_2020-05-18_14.11.44
Detailed, custom-made bathymetric chart. Note that prior to using for navigation, close attention by the user should be given to the quality of the sonar data recorded and resulting accuracy of the map.

 

New BioBase Feature Alert: Google Earth Imagery Exports

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.

GoogleEarthBioBaseCoverImage
Figure 1. Image of seagrass cover in Newport Bay, CA USA mapped with Lowrance, processed with BioBase EcoSound and exported as a Google Earth .kmz file. Example can be found in the free demo account on http://www.biobasemaps.com.

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).

GolfCoursePondBioBaseGoogleExport
Figure 2. Add your own logos and other information to the Google Earth exported BioBase EcoSound image

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:

  1. Open ArcMap
  2. Open ArcToolbox > Conversion Tools > From KML > KML to Layer

ESRI Toolbox image

      • Input KML File
        • Toggle to saved .KML file Lake_Kerr_Biobase.kml (example) > Open
      • Output Location
        • 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

KML to Layer Dialog

*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.

Lake_Kerr18_BioBase
Lake Kerr (FL USA) aquatic vegetation heat map as seen in BioBase
Lake_Kerr18_GoogleEarth
Lake Kerr (FL USA) aquatic vegetation heat map as seen in Google Earth
Lake_Kerr18_ArcGis
Lake Kerr (FL USA) aquatic vegetation heat map converted to a .lyr file in ArcGIS

New BioBase Viewer Released

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.

Continue reading “New BioBase Viewer Released”

BioBase Helping Researchers Understand Natural Patterns of Vegetation Growth

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.

AquaticBotany

BioBase Applications benefiting conservation of UK’s Wetlands

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.

BioBaseSurveyShelteredLagoon

20191022 LWC19 BV Heatmap
Density of aquatic vegetation (% Biovolume) in Sheltered Lagoon, London Area UK.

BioBase: tips and lessons learned

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!

5fadb-fig1_ducer_angle
Figure 1. Example of a slanted transducer and what affect it has on BioBase maps.  A simple Google Search of “transducer installation” will turn up many very good self help resources about how to properly install your transducer.

Continue reading “BioBase: tips and lessons learned”

New EcoSat Feature: Reclassify individual vegetation polygons

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.

Continue reading “New EcoSat Feature: Reclassify individual vegetation polygons”

BioBase Paper Published: Accuracy and Precision of Low-Cost Echosounder and Automated Data Processing Software for Habitat Mapping in a Large River

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

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.

EcoSound vs Manual Measures Vegetation Helminen et al 2019