Dr. Sandy Wyllie-Echeverria, Friday Harbor Laboratories University of Washington, became familiar with BioSonics and the MX Aquatic Habitat Echosounder System, after seeing the technology in action at the 2012 International Seagrass Conference in Brazil. So while co-teaching a course, focused on the attributes of remotely acquired data to monitor seagrass populations, with Northwest Indian College (NWIC) Director of the National Indian Center for Marine and Environmental Research and Education, Dr. Marco Hatch, Sandy contacted BioSonics to arrange for use of an echosounder to locate and map eelgrass (Zostera marina) shoots in Portage Bay on the Lummi Nation Reservation. The class is learning about different methods to remotely sense eelgrass presence and distribution. In addition to being an effective method to determine if eelgrass is present at a site, the MX Echosounder allows for accurate measurement of canopy height, percent coverage and maximum and minimum depth limits of eelgrass growth. These features will provide quantitative information for the NWIC project. Students received training in echosounder configuration and operation and will also learn hydroacoustic data processing techniques to generate usable information for their research project.
As part of the NWIC study, students will use GIS software to create a map showing the quantitative distribution of eelgrass. They will incorporate geo-referenced aerial photography from three different time periods spanning 13 years. The class will also conduct eelgrass stem density surveys on the tide flats this spring to ground truth data acquired using aerial photography and the MX Echosounder. As a final product the class will input all data into an ArcGIS presentation describing eelgrass distribution patterns at the site.