Studying Salmon With A Drone

Studying Salmon With A Drone


– No one’s done
a project that is quite as intense as
what we’re doing. (light techno music) – I’m Marissa Conklin and
this is xConnect Northwest, connecting you to the experts. I’m joined here today
with Daniel Auerbach, a WSU grad student that studies salmon
spawning with a drone. What was the method that
they previously used to study salmon spawning? – So the method
they previously used and what they’re
currently using is they use boats and/or walking to identify these redds. So they literally have people floating down the river and looking out for
these salmon nests, or what we call
redds in the field. – So can you walk us
through the process of what it’s like
and what you do when you go out with
the drone and study? – Yeah, so, we
picked three sections that are a kilometer long, along the river, and we essentially
have the drone, and we set up these missions to go fly a grid
along the river. And obviously there’s
a lot of planning that goes into that, and different variables, but we then go out to
these different sections, and take the drone off, and it goes and flies its grid, and takes a whole
boatload of images, about 200 per kilometer. And then we bring ’em
back to the office, and stitch ’em together, and then overlay them on GIS and we’re able to identify
the Redds from there. – How successful has
this method been? Or how successful do
you predict it will be? – Right now we’re really
just beginning the project. And there’s reason to believe
that it will be successful. Idaho has done projects
where they’ve been able to identify redds using drones, and there’s also been
some studies in Europe that have been able to identify
fish redds using drones. And based off the information
we’ve gotten this summer, we are able to see
the river bottom, which is obviously
what we need to see to be able to
visualize these redds and count them, so
there’s reason to believe that we’re gonna be
really successful. As of right now, it’s at
the very broad level, right? No one’s done a project
that is quite as intense as what we’re doing, so right now in the broadest
sense success would be that can we see these redds? Are we able to identify them? And then further down the road, success will be measured in how
comparable these studies are using aerial images to what
Fish and Wildlife is getting using the methods that
they’ve used in the past. – So why is it important
that we study salmon spawning in this area? – So as I’m sure you know, salmon in the Pacific
Northwest are awfully iconic and, you know,
when people think of Washington, Alaska, Oregon, they think salmon, it’s a amazing species and these
studies are very unique in the sense that we’re
able to see these fish both at the end of
their life cycle, as adults coming back to spawn, and then really seeing
it at the first stages of the life cycle as well, when they dig these nests and lay their eggs. So, it gives us a baseline of
how many fish have returned, and obviously there’s
factors that we can use besides that like counting them as they go over dams
and such, and then but really, what
we’re focusing on, is the fact that we’re
seeing the baseline, the first predictions of what may return
in years to come. So it’s really the
first indication of
population estimates in the river. – This has been
xConnect Northwest and you can find more
episodes on our Facebook page at Northwest Public
Broadcasting. (light techno music)

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