What kind of sonar hardware should I buy for BioBase Mapping is the most common question we are asked. Admittedly, continual change in technology, products, and features can be intimidating and sometimes confusing. With this blog, we focus on what you need to know to get started with BioBase
Too commonly we get files uploaded from customers that had either no sonar information or no GPS location in the file. This is typically due to some unit malfunction or user oversight of a disabled setting. If there is no GPS position or no sonar depth in the file, not surprisingly BioBase cannot create a map. Here we show some of the most common troubleshooting tips and tricks that will help you diagnose common issues with newer generation Lowrance and get you back to BioBasing on the water.
What is BioBase? BioBase is composed of two different products, EcoSound and EcoSat. Ecosat processes satellite imagery to create shallow vegetation and benthic habitat maps. While, EcoSound uses off-the-shelf sonar technology and automatic cloud processing to create professional bathymetry, bottom composition, and aquatic vegetation maps. BioBase removes the labor intensive and high cost elements of acquiring high quality data very quickly so you can focus your efforts on aquatic resource management.
BioBase is a cloud software that directly supports the preservation of our aquatic environments. Words like preservation and conservation directly imply things like careful planning, measuring and monitoring, treatment and rehabilitation – actionable strategies for the good of animals, plants and natural resources where BioBase can play an important role. BioBase offers an opportunity to observe natural systems, like seagrasses, not easily seen otherwise and does so effortlessly and affordably.
The waters of Western Port in southeastern Australia are a recreational fishing haven and hidden beneath its turbid waters, a unique fragile seafloor community has been newly described. Here, bryozoans, skeleton-forming filter-feeding organisms also known as ‘lace corals’, form expansive areas of reef that support a high diversity and abundance of macroinvertebrates important to snapper and other prized recreational fish species.
The rollout of the new BioBase EcoSound vegetation and bottom hardness algorithm required substantial refactoring of our core processing code. Read about the changes here. While we were under the hood, we took the opportunity to implement some enhancements that our frequent BioBase users should appreciate. NOTE: Users still select the unit (Imperial or Metric) in the primary user profile area of their BioBase account (My Account).
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.
Example from a big lake:
Example from a small pond:
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.
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.
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).
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:
Open ArcToolbox > Conversion Tools > From KML > KML to Layer
Input KML File
Toggle to saved .KML file Lake_Kerr_Biobase.kml (example) > Open
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
*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.
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.
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!