Given the disdain for the word “weed,” it’s not surprising that seaweed gets such little respect in most developed human cultures. But, we are finding seaweed and its rooted cousin seagrass hold immeasurable value for the future of humankind. Time to get to work mapping it!
Seagrasses are considered vascular plants and have roots, stems, leaves, and flowers. According to a report from the United Nations in 2020, there are more than 70 species across the globe covering over 300,000 km2 (which is likely a vast underestimate) making them one of the most widespread coastal habitats.
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.
The Professional Spotlight series is a deep dive into the global BioBase community where we highlight the unique ways sonar driven mapping is assisting research, conservation and sustainability.
The BioBase team sat down with Dr. Chris Harrod for a look into how he uses BioBase. Chris (from the UK) is a full professor of Fish and Aquatic Ecology at the University of Antofagasta in Antofagasta, Chile. He does a mixture of research, teaching, and administration tasks but our interest with him was the applied research techniques for which he was using BioBase. His research is focused on a macroalgae called kelp (aka seaweed) and its importance as a source of food/energy to fish and invertebrates in the coastal zone. He is also interested in how kelp can function as habitat, food, an anchor of sediment and even slow the turbulent waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Lake Minnetonka is one of the largest and most heavily used recreational lakes in Minnesota and is composed of an interconnected system of bays (Figure 1). Every summer, a rooted invasive aquatic plant, Eurasian watermilfoil creates thick bottom to surface mats in many areas of the lake. While these mats may occur anywhere on the lake, they generally are thickest in certain shallow areas such as the Diamond Reef area in the main lake of Lake Minnetonka (officially described as Lower Lake North). This reef is popular with anglers, power boaters, and sailors. On any given night or weekend, well over a hundred keelboats may take part in regular club racing events or regattas here. World class level sailors, including Olympic champions, America’s Cup, and other accomplished sailors regularly race on the lake and the competition can be intense. When competition is tight, every advantage is important.
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.
BioBase’s EcoSound is a powerful cloud platform for creating high definition lake or coastal maps of depth, aquatic vegetation (or seagrass), and bottom hardness from Lowrance® and Simrad®
sonar systems. For the user, the process of converting volumes of raw sonar and gps signals into an intuitive map is easy and requires very little input upfront. Record your sonar while out on the water to a microSD card, plug the card into your PC back at the office, log into your BioBase account and upload. Algorithms on remote servers do the rest of the work. However, one of the most frequently overlooked parts of this equation is careful attention to the proper installation of the transducer sensor that is pinging the bottom and collecting all the information below the boat. The importance of proper transducer installation cannot be overstated. If the transducer is not properly placed on the boat or not at the appropriate angle, your BioBase outputs could be inaccurate. Modelers have heard it said many times (sometimes in more colorful language), the quality of the output depends on the quality of the input.
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.
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.)
In the images and captions below, we’ll walk you through how to do this in your biobasemaps.com account.
Register your Lowrance or Simrad Chartplotter in your BioBase Account
2. Export the GPS Chart file from the desired EcoSound Trip or Merge from BioBase.
3. Unzip the downloaded file and save to a MicroSD card (<32 GB).
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!