Minnesota LGU Taking Citizen Aquatic Plant Monitoring to New Level!

At conferences, we often encounter curious coordinators of citizen monitoring programs about how they could use automated consumer technologies to monitor aquatic habitats.  When they learn what BioBase does, a frequent question is: “That sounds pretty cool and something we could certainly apply, who else is using BioBase for citizen science applications?”

In response, we always highlight the Prior Lake Spring Lake Watershed District (PLSLWD) in Minnesota USA.  PLSLWD is a leader when it comes to leveraging the talents of volunteers, partners, and Lowrance and BioBase technology to implement a comprehensive, standardized aquatic plant monitoring program.  To learn more about the PLSLWD’s program and implementation strategies, check out this report.

Schematic showing the collection of merged files collected by citizen volunteers.  A PLSLWD intern coordinated efforts across multiple volunteers, informed citizens about desired travel routes, and even preloaded transect guides in their Lowrance Chartplotter for citizens to follow.

 

 

Maps of Bottom Hardness (top), Bathymetry (middle), and Aquatic Vegetation Abundance (% of water column filled with vegetation or biovolume, Bottom) collected by citizens on Prior Lake with Lowrance Sounders/Chartplotters and processed automatically by BioBase Automated Lake Mapping System.

 

BioBase Helps Manage Honeoye Lake Macrophyte Harvesting Program

Guest Blog By Terry R. Gronwall, Chairman of the Honeoye Lake Watershed Task Force (Honeoye, NY)
Honeoye Lake is one of the smaller (~1,800 acres) Finger Lakes in Upstate New York.  We have been managing our macrophyte population by using a harvester for about 25 years.  The objective of our harvesting program is to both provide relief for the recreational lake users and to remove biomass containing phosphorus from the lake every summer.  We average around 800 wet tons of biomass removed per season.

When we learned about ciBiobase we saw this service as a way to make our macrophyte harvesting operation more efficient by concentrating our efforts on areas in the lake that have macrophytes growing through most of the water column.  This is shown as the red zone on our macrophyte maps.  We plan to monitor our actual harvesting rates relative to our macrophyte maps over the summer harvesting season to see if we achieve our goal of increased productivity.

Continue reading “BioBase Helps Manage Honeoye Lake Macrophyte Harvesting Program”

Citizen Lake Mapping: Power of Aggregation!

Ten Mile Lake in Hackensack, Minnesota is one of many crown jewel lakes of Minnesota.  It’s no wonder the Ten Mile Lake Association is serious about lake monitoring and conservation.  When BioBase approached TMLA member and hobby Fisheries Biologist Dr. Bruce Carlson in late 2012 demonstrating how members could passively log their sonar data and map habitat while enjoying a pleasure cruise or fishing, Dr. Carlson jumped at the opportunity.

Two hundred and twenty four trips spanning two seasons (2013-2014) and 5,065 acres (2,049 ha) later, Dr. Carlson and colleagues have produced the most accurate and detailed map of Ten Mile Lake on the planet (Figure 1)!

Figure 1. Track lines from 224 Lowrance sonar logs uploaded to BioBase and merged (left) and resultant contour map (right) produced automatically for Ten Mile Lake, Hackensack, MN USA.  Ten Mile Lake is a 208-ft (63-m) deep lake with 16-ft (5-m) clarity.

When comparing the hand-made maps of 1947 from the long-dissolved MN Dept of Conservation one has to wonder if creating this map took a dedicated and highly trained survey crew all summer to create this map (Figures 2-4)?  Now a critical mass of anglers or pleasure boaters with no mapping experience can create a community-sourced contour map that rivals anything produced by the most trained hydrologists using the most expensive “survey-grade” echosounders.

Figure 2. Original map of Ten Mile Lake created in 1947 by the MN Department of Conservation (left) next to the aggregated map produced by TMLA volunteers in 2014 after uploading to BioBase.  Maps created in the mid 20th Century remain the only maps offered to anglers and recreationists by a large number State Natural Resource agencies. Often these old maps are digitized and artfully recontoured and shaded for resale.
Figure 3. Close up of the 10-ft contours displayed in the 1947 Department of Conservation map compared with the 2014 aggregated map created by TMLA volunteer uploads to BioBase.
Figure 4. Tight zoom of 10-ft contours from 1947 MN Department of Conservation map (ink blob on top) compared with 3-ft contours from aggregated map created by TMLA volunteer uploads to BioBase.

Not just an improvement in aesthetics!
The efforts of TMLA and volunteers from other Lake Associations across the US (e.g., Lake Paradise, Honeoye, Prior Lake) are producing not only pretty maps but also updated digital maps for the public and highly detailed fish habitat and aquatic plant data for aquatic researchers and managers.

First, public trips uploaded and aggregated both from BioBase and C-MAP Genesis mapping services from anywhere across the globe go to Social Map where they are available for viewing and downloading for free to Lowrance, Simrad, and B&G chartplotters (Figures 5 and 6).

Figure 5.  Insight Genesis Social Map coverage of Sweden.

 

Figure 6. Example map of Anten (Sweden) as viewed from Insight Genesis social map.  Professionals (BioBase) and Anglers (Insight Genesis) can community-source their mapping efforts to “fill-in” unmapped areas and create up to date digital maps for the public.

Second, Fisheries across the globe are threatened by a range of impacts too long to go into detail here and Aquatic Invasive Species are a global pandemic.  Researchers and managers mourn the decline of native aquatic species and often target habitat degradation or loss as a primary driver.  But rarely does information on habitat match the detail of the information on species declines. Citizen Scientists are now helping Natural Resource Agencies fill in the habitat knowledge gaps.  Returning to our example on Ten Mile Lake, now with updated bathymetry provided by TMLA volunteers and data sharing with MN Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Fisheries researchers have precise knowledge about how much cold, well oxygenated water is available for cisco (an important cold-water forage fish for popular gamefish).  Similarly, thanks to the efforts of the Prior Lake Spring Lake Watershed District and citizen volunteers on Prior and Spring Lakes, the response of invasive aquatic plants to watershed and in-lake management actions can be monitored.

Harnessing the power of technology and citizen science to conserve aquatic resources
“Doing more with less” or “working smarter not harder” are common cliché truths that will continue to limit the reach of publicly funded natural resource management programs into the foreseeable future. Through advances in affordable off-the-shelf consumer technology, automation, and the collective enthusiasm of citizen volunteers, good information on aquatic habitat need’nt suffer from declining public natural resource budgets.  Rather, by enrolling the help of citizens and technology such as described here, aquatic biologists and managers can focus their energies on using the information to make wise aquatic resource management decisions.

ciBioBase Vegetation Mapping

We love to show off the accuracy of our submerged vegetation mapping algorithm.  Check out this break in the weeds that was picked up and clearly displayed in the ciBioBase vegetation layer:

The BioBase vegetation layer is automatically generated by powerful cloud computers so you receive an objective output every time.  The white line on the right and red dot on the left show the boat position as a cross section and aerial view of the water column respectively. 

Submerged vegetation is displayed as percent biovolume (BV%) which represents the percent of the water column occupied by plants.  This provides a clear picture of total plant abundance from each trip on the water.  Data can be passively logged because none of our users have to do any of the processing when they get back to the office.  Do what you were already planning to do and our automated system will take care of the rest.

Let us know if you have any questions about how this process works!

Detect Change in Your Lake Before it’s Too Late!

Citizens all over the globe love their lakes and go to great lengths and spend lots of money to protect and manage them.  In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency supports a multitude of State, Local, and citizen efforts to monitor water quality in lakes and has implemented a rigorous National Lakes Assessment.  Despite these efforts, lakes across the nation continue to be impacted from runoff pollution and invasive species proliferation under our noses. How does this happen?

Continue reading “Detect Change in Your Lake Before it’s Too Late!”

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.

Crowd Sourcing Lake Mapping

Natural Resource Managers and Climatologists have long recognized the critical importance of observer networks and volunteer citizen monitoring.   With citizen monitoring networks, Managers and Scientists acquire useful data for making more informed predictions and management decisions, while involved citizens gain an ownership stake in building the knowledgebase about the condition of ecosystems and the climate.

Citizen protocols for water quality (e.g., Secchi clarity) and meteorology (e.g., rainfall) data collection are largely objective and are becoming increasingly standardized throughout the nation.  As a result, comprehensive datasets are being merged at large geographic scales to assess the current status and trajectory of water resource and climate conditions.  Despite well-intentioned citizen programs to map and monitor aquatic plants in several US states, most are subjective and non-standardized.  Consequently, results will differ across surveyors, systems, and geographic regions.  This strongly limits the power and usefulness of data collected from these programs.   This is unfortunate because of the importance of aquatic plants for fish habitat and water clarity, and the vulnerability of lakes to invasive aquatic plants.

Contour Innovations has addressed this issue with ciBioBase and is poised to revolutionize citizen aquatic plant monitoring.

Objective data collection and analysis

Few others cover more water than citizens living on lakes.  Why not capture information about bottom conditions while on a pleasure cruise or fishing?  With only a modicum of planning, the lake could be divvied up among users to ensure consistent and uniform coverage.  By loading in a $10 SD card into the slot on a Lowrance HDS unit and hitting record while driving over areas of interest, lake citizens are well on their way to collecting important information on aquatic plant growth.  After a trip, citizens upload the recorded files to ciBioBase’s cloud-based servers which will trigger algorithms to automatically analyze bottom and plant signals, map the output and match it up with your sonar viewer (Figure 1).  Pretty maps? Absolutely! But also, objective statistical reports that summarize the plant growth conditions (e.g., percent cover, biovolume; Figure 2).  By sampling the same area over time, citizens can objectively monitor change as environmental conditions change.  Further, these efforts will provide objective benchmarks by which to evaluate watershed, shoreline, and in-lake management efforts. 
Figure 1. Automated mapping of bottom and vegetation signals matched up a high resolution DownScan sonar trip replay. 
Figure 2. Excerpt from ciBioBase automated statistical summary report.


Data that most closely corresponds to water quality, fish habitat, and nuisance conditions


Prior to ciBioBase, lake citizens, service providers, and natural resource agencies had little choice but to express plant growth in the lake as “abundant” or “sparse” with sophistication ranging up to digitally drawn maps around the outside of plant beds that they could see from looking over the side of the boat or from an aerial photo.  Anything that could not be seen with the naked eye or from an aerial photograph was ignored.  Quantification was limited to what could be pulled up with a rake and expressed as a presence/absence  metric of frequency of occurrence.
From a water quality and fish habitat perspective, these methods have left the fishery and water resource manager, lakeshore owner, and angler wanting.  Traditional plant assessment methods as described would give the same value to the strikingly contrasting environments depicted in Figure 3).  In the panel on the left, plants only occupy approximately 60% of the water column.  There are adequate hiding places for prey and room for predators to swim around in search of prey.  Plants are adequate to anchor sediments and prevent stirring of sediments that can make the lake murky.  Last but not least, a boat can easily pass through without disturbing the habitat.  Contrast this with the panel on the right.  Although the visual delineation or rake throw prescribed by traditionalists would give the same information on density as the panel on the left, fish habitat and water recreation conditions are strikingly different between the two environments.  In this simulated invasive aquatic plant community (e.g., Eurasian watermilfoil or Hydrilla) without any edge, predatory fish have difficulty finding prey, boat propellers are stopped in their tracks and outboard impellers imperiled!  Essentially, the differences described between the environments in Figure 3 can be summarized in the ciBioBase biovolume maps and statistical outputs.  Ask your service provider or local water resource manager how they measure aquatic plant growth conditions in your favorite lake and evaluate whether they stack up to what ciBioBase provides.
Figure 3.  Contrasting aquatic plant environments that are often represented equally in traditional assessment methods.  On the left is growth that typifies a diverse, native aquatic plant community as opposed to topped-out growth that typifies invasive plant communities.  By mapping biovolume (percent of water column occupied by vegetaton), ciBioBase distinguishes the differences between these plant communities.
Centralized database – Apples to Apples

All data uploaded to ciBioBase are processed uniformly in a centralized database and made available to subscribers in a private organizational account.  Data from Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota can be compared with data from East Lake Tohopekaliga in Florida or data from Esthwaite Water in the UK and comparisons will be apples to apples.  The centralization feature of ciBioBase comes with these tangible benefits as well as intangible ones like fostering greater collaboration between groups interested in aquatic resource conservation.
Merged uniform outputs from multiple surveyors

A new buzzword has been entering the vernacular of natural resource managers called “precision conservation” brought on by advances in aerial photography, lasers (LiDAR), automated sensors, and greater computing power.  We can now identify miniscule areas on the landscape that are sources of runoff and pollution and strategically target those areas to install “Best Management Practices” or BMP’s like rain gardens or grit chambers.  However, thus far the dialog surrounding precision conservation has largely been terrestrial.  ciBioBase is bringing precision conservation to lakes through its merge trips function (Figure 4).
As ciBioBase account managers our users can compile trips from subscribers within their  organization to create a highly precise map of bottom and vegetation (Figure 4).  This division of labor describes the essence of this blog’s title whereby the collective efforts or intelligence of the many are more powerful than any one individual.  No one person is willing or able to track how the lake is changing from day to day as runoff from an increasingly common 4-in rain comes streaming (literally) in, but a dozen active citizens might.  The result is a near real-time data feed on changes in lake conditions that will greatly inform how the lake responds to environmental change, where to target conservation efforts, and whether implemented management policies are producing their desired effects.
Figure 4. Multiple citizens in the same organization can work together by merging trips, thereby creating the most accurate bottom and plant map on the face of the planet!