Guest Blog: BioBase and Arctic charr habitat in Windermere, U.K.

By Dr. Ian J. Winfield and Joey van Rijn

The Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) is well appreciated as an important fisheries species in many northern areas of the world.  In addition, it is equally important to evolutionary biologists because of this species’ frequent development of ‘morphs’ or ‘types’ and their bearing on our understanding of mechanisms of speciation (Figure 1).  In the U.K., this fascinating fish is also recognised as having great nature conservation value.

Figure 1.  A female (top) and male (bottom) Arctic charr from Windermere, U.K.  Photo courtesy of the Center for Ecology and Hydrology)

Windermere is England’s largest lake and has been at the forefront of several areas of Arctic charr research for many decades, with the notable exception of studies of their spawning grounds (Figure 2).  Despite their long appreciated significance for the coexistence of autumn- and spring-spawning Arctic charr types, local spawning grounds have not been studied in any detail since their original brief description in the 1960s.  At that time, laborious and spatially-limited direct observations by divers showed that spawning requires the availability of gravel or other hard bottom habitat.  New information on these critical areas is needed by ecologists and evolutionary biologists and, more urgently, by fisheries and conservation organisations responsible for the management of Windermere.

Figure 2.  Breathtaking view of Windermere’s north basin; home to several spawning populations of Arctic charr.  Photo courtesy of Dr. Ian Winfield.

We are currently using the newly developed bottom hardness capability of ciBioBase to survey and characterise the spawning grounds of Arctic charr in Windermere.  Limited underwater video is being used for ground-truthing, but the combination of a Lowrance™ HDS-5 sounder with ciBioBase is allowing us to investigate the known spawning grounds with unprecedented speed (Figure 3).  For the first time, we have been able to document in detail the bathymetry and bottom features of a long-monitored (for spawning fish) spawning ground just north of the island of North Thompson Holme in the lake’s north basin.  ciBioBase is also enabling us to examine other known spawning grounds in Windermere and to expand our coverage to other potential areas previously unstudied.

Figure 3. An example ciBioBase output of bottom composition on and around the Arctic charr spawning ground of North Thompson Holme in the north basin of Windermere

The rapidity of the field component of hydroacoustic surveys is well known.  ciBioBase now offers us a similarly fast method of hydroacoustic data analysis for key environmental characteristics in relation to the spawning of Arctic charr.  This new approach helps us to dramatically increase our return on investment and also allows us to review results within hours of coming off the water, leading in some cases to us adapting our field plans on the basis of initial results.

Dr. Ian J Winfield is a Freshwater Ecologist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Lancaster, U.K.  He has over 30 years of research experience in fish and fisheries ecology, hydroacoustics, and lake ecosystem assessment and management.  Dr. Winfield sits on several regional, national and international advisory boards and is the current President of the Fisheries Society of the British Isles (FSBI).

Joey van Rijn is an undergraduate student currently following a BSc. degree course in Applied Biology at the University of Applied sciences, HAS Den Bosch, in the Netherlands. He is experienced in ecological and particularly phenological research including work on temperature-induced differences between urban and rural areas in the timing of blossoming and leaf unfolding in shrubs.  He has also been involved with the development of fish ways for standing waters in the Netherlands. Joey is currently undertaking a research internship at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Lancaster, U.K., where his research mainly focuses on using hydroacoustics to investigate Arctic charr spawning grounds in Windermere.

Paradise Lake Improvement Board (MI)

Contour Innovations has recently adapted the ciBioBase platform and pricing options to support the mapping initiatives of local government units, home owner associations, and improvement boards.  One of the most recent additions to this project has been the Paradise Improvement Board in Carp Lake, MI (Lower Peninsula) and we’re excited about it!*

The Paradise Lake Improvement Board (paradiselakeimprovementboard.com), through crowd sourcing and citizen science concepts, can now quickly determine the location and abundance of aquatic vegetation for management interventions and quantitative evaluation of the effectiveness of those techniques.   

There’s no technical expertise required!  Our biologists walked the volunteers of the PLIB through a demo account to demonstrate the key features for success with ciBioBase and discuss the recommended settings and collection techniques.    

 
 It’s this simple

Led by board member Catherine Freebairn, the PLIB purchased 2 Lowrance™ HDS units that will be set up as portable units for the lake group and an unlimited upload subscription to ciBioBase.com.  These units will be used to map Paradise Lake during dedicated mapping time as well as during pleasure cruises with passive collection.  With each minute on the water, the PLIB volunteers will be collecting vital statistics on aquatic vegetation, bathymetry, water temps, water volumes, and water clarity, all by hitting “log sonar” on their new HDS sonar units.  All of this data will be stored in their private online account. 
Aquatic biologist Ray Valley commented, “Protecting our lakes demands understanding of what lies beneath the surface and how its changing as a result of environmental changes and our responses to them.”
Using the innovative ciBioBase System, the PLIB has started building a historical database of their aquatic environment to monitor vegetation abundance and other important water quality characteristics over time.   They can now quickly determine the location and abundance of submerged aquatic vegetation for management interventions and quantitative evaluations of effectiveness of those techniques.  This database is the catalyst for efficient management today and in the future.  By gathering  this data each time someone is on the lake, the Board can crowd source the mapping effort and share information with their service providers for collaborative and objective decision making.  

“The PLIB has always shown a substantial passion for their lake and we feel that their early adoption of our powerful technology will be rewarded on many fronts,” said Contour Innovations’ CEO Matt Johnson.  “It’s very easy to work with groups like the PLIB who see the big picture in lake management and monitoring and want to see results.  They develop close relationships with their service providers and home owners to work hand-in-hand in understanding the best opportunities to reach their goals.  This is the first time that groups like this can use acoustics for accurate vegetation mapping and ciBioBase fits perfectly within their strategy,” he added.  

The PLIB will be working with their service providers (who will also have access to uploads and maps) to make important management decisions, monitor changes, and objectively evaluate if management interventions are having their desired effects.  With the support of all involved, including Contour Innovations’ own aquatic biologists, the future looks bright for Paradise Lake and anyone that enjoys all it has to offer!
 An Example of a Lake Mapped with ciBioBase
 Aquatic Vegetation Displayed in % BV (water column occupied by plants)

If you’re interested in finding out more about ciBioBase and how it can help your association or improvement district, please contact us and we’d be happy to set up a person demo for you with one of our biologists.  Please contact Jesse Amo for additional details:  JesseA@ContuourInnovations.com

For more information on the Paradise Lake Improvement Board please check out their website at paradiselakeimprovementboard.com.

*Contour Innovations does not release personal information about our customers.  We obtained permission from the PLIB before this media release.