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.

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.

 

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 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

BioBase EcoSound Composition (Hardness) Algorithm: More details!

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.

Continue reading “BioBase EcoSound Composition (Hardness) Algorithm: More details!”

Networking 3rd Party GPS/GNSS into Lowrance

Ray Valley

Aquatic Biologist and BioBase Product Expert

I frequently get inquiries from current and prospective BioBase users about the accuracy of consumer-grade Lowrance GPS and whether survey-grade 3rd party receivers capable of differential correction (DGPS) or receiving positions from multiple satellite constellations (Global Navigation Satellite System – GNSS) could be used with Lowrance and processed with BioBase.

The first question about accuracy prompted a test in March of 2013 with a Lowrance HDS tested side-by-side with a Trimble GeoXH.  I was pleased to find less than 1m deviation on average from post-processed Trimble DGPS positions.  One meter accuracy and precision is typically sufficient for most boat-based mapping applications. Still, prerequisites for some projects require DGPS, and there are a number of BioBase users who have and still would prefer to have DGPS generated positions to use when logging trips. Thus, I was interested in exploring the capabilities of networking positions from a third-party receiver into a Lowrance HDS.

Continue reading “Networking 3rd Party GPS/GNSS into Lowrance”

Mapping Hidden Channels with Genesis Live

River channel thalwegs (the line of lowest elevation within a valley or watercourse) are often dynamic, and sometimes hidden features of large river systems.  Especially low slope or impounded systems.  The thalweg is a critical geomorphological feature of river and reservoir systems and affects everything from sediment transport, to fisheries habitat, to algae or invasive plant control.

Thus a good bathymetric contour map is a necessary pre-requisite for effective river and reservoir management.  Here, we walk you through how to use new real time technologies (C-MAP’s Genesis Live) to produce smooth, precise, and accurate maps of hidden river thalwegs all within one trip to the site and with automated post-processing with BioBase’s EcoSound.  We’ll use an annotated image gallery to take you through this process.

Continue reading “Mapping Hidden Channels with Genesis Live”

Guest Blog: Correlations between EcoSound Biovolume and Aquatic Plant Biomass

Andrew W. Howell and Dr. Robert J. Richardson
 
North Carolina State University; Dept. Crop and Soil Sciences
 
Why do we want to sample submersed vegetation biomass using sonar?

Invasive aquatic plants, such as non-native hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata), negatively impact waterway systems in the southeastern United States and on a global scale. Often, these aquatic weed species impede recreational activities, power generation, and disrupt native ecological systems. Costs associated with aquatic weed management include expenses accompanied with monitoring, mapping, and implementing control measures. Prompt detection and accurate mapping of submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) are critical components when formulating management decisions and practices. Therefore, SAV management protocols are often reliant upon the perceived extent of invasion. Traditional biomass sampling techniques have been widely utilized, but often require significant labor inputs, which limits repeatability, the scale of sampling, and the rapidness of processing. Advances in consumer available hydroacoustic technology (sonar) and data post-processing offer the opportunity to estimate SAV biomass at scale with reduced labor and economic requirements.

The objectives of this research were to document the use of an off-the-shelf consumer sonar/gps chartplotter to: 1) describe and characterize a relationship between hydroacoustic biovolume signature to measured hydrilla biomass; 2) develop algorithm for on-the-fly assessment of hydrilla biomass from interpolated biovolume records; 3) define seasonal hydrilla growth patterns at two NC piedmont reservoirs; and 4) create a visual representation of SAV development over time. From these objectives, the expected outcome was to describe a protocol for passive data collection while reducing the economic inputs associated with labor efforts involved in biomass sampling and post-processing evaluations. In our research, a Lowrance HDS-7 Gen2 was utilized to correlate biomass from monospecific stands of hydrilla within two different North Carolina piedmont reservoirs using BioBase 5.2 (now marketed as EcoSound – http://www.biobasemaps.com), cloud-based algorithm to aid in post-processing.

Continue reading “Guest Blog: Correlations between EcoSound Biovolume and Aquatic Plant Biomass”

Interpreting bottom hardness in shallow lakes and ponds: digging deeper into the data

BioBase’s EcoSound bottom composition (hardness) algorithm has become quite popular for researchers and lake/pond managers to determine where sedimentation from the watershed may be occurring.  However, interpreting sonar returns in shallow environments (e.g., less than 7 ft or 2 m) with off-the-shelf sonar is challenging, especially if aquatic vegetation is present.  Each situation is different and the objective of this blog is to inform you of how to interpret your EcoSound map in situations when you encounter counter intuitive bottom hardness results.

Here are some high level points to remember.

Continue reading “Interpreting bottom hardness in shallow lakes and ponds: digging deeper into the data”

FAQ of the year: Does BioBase EcoSound Map Sediment Depth?

Thanks to advances in physical, chemical and biological technologies and funding that are focused on reducing sedimentation or muck depth in waterways, many water resource practitioners are eager to determine how much sediment is in a waterway of interest and how much could be removed. As such, we frequently are asked: “Will BioBase tell you how deep the sediment is?”

Continue reading “FAQ of the year: Does BioBase EcoSound Map Sediment Depth?”