Biological Technician Jose Rivera deploys two split-beam transducers in preparation for a survey of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo by Brad Rogers)
Outfitting and Deploying The Ultimate Sonar Boat
By Philip Rogers
Fisheries technicians can be pretty crafty when it comes to designing new sampling gear. We spend a lot of time tinkering with and thinking about ways to improve our gear so that we can better perform our jobs. Occasionally, a technician gets assigned to a project that really allows them to put their creative juices to work.
In late 2012 the Carterville FWCO was approved to build a new sonar survey boat to aid in the fight against Asian carp. This boat was to be built to accommodate existing DIDSON sonars by Sound Metrics, newly acquired split-beam sonar equipment by BioSonics Inc., and Side Scan sonar by EdgeTech. The task was to design a boat that would allow individual or simultaneous use of these sonars.
A quick trip to Michigan to examine a USGS research vessel gave us a good idea of what we would need to deploy and effectively operate all of our sonar systems. We drew up some plans, put it out for bid, and ultimately Pacific Skiffs in Marysville, WA received the contract to build the recently named “Carpe See-um” research vessel.
The vessel is a 26-foot, all aluminum boat with an 8-foot walk-through cabin sporting heat, air conditioning, and twin 150 horsepower Yamaha outboards. Brad Rogers, lead technician at Carterville, made a trip to Marysville in early winter 2012 to help design and layout the interior workspace along with all the gadgets that would ultimately make up our new research vessel. Fitting a boat load (pun intended) of sonar equipment into this new vessel was not easy. In the end, we had fun creating a usable and efficient workspace that will be safe and comfortable for many hours of surveying ahead of us.
With the Carpe See-um begging to be set sail, it was time to learn how to operate our new equipment. BioSonics Inc. sent two employees to Carterville in May 2013 to conduct a two-day training session that included on-the-water training with our equipment. We learned about the history and theory of split-beam hydroacoustics as well as the capabilities and limitations of the system we have. The on-the-water portion taught us just how critical deployment can be to collecting quality data. With this fresh knowledge we were ready to put the Carpe See-um to the test.
Jose Rivera and Brad Rogers, technicians at Carterville FWCO, headed to the Chicago area on April 1, to put the equipment to work. Their assignment was to make pre- and post surveys of the electric fish barrier, which is located in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, before and after a scheduled testing of the backup generators. The purpose of this survey was to document the abundance and location of any fish before and after the maintenance to determine if any fish move past the barrier during the testing.
In addition to this survey, the guys also performed a survey of the entire Lockport pool from just above the electric fish barrier down to the lock and dam. The purpose of this survey is to document relative abundance of fish in the pool over time. The information gained from these surveys will allow us to help plan maintenance activities at the fish barrier for times when the fewest number of fish are in the area.
The surveys went fairly well considering it was our first time using this equipment in the field without any expert supervision. We have since been attending more training as well as designing, modifying, and building mounts to better deploy the equipment.
The Carpe See-um is slowly turning into the “ultimate sonar boat.” All the kinks have just about been worked out and there are several weeks planned to be on the water this summer surveying miles of river. We have plans to be in Chicago on the Upper Illinois Waterway and possibly all the way over to West Virginia on the Ohio River. All the data we gather with this boat and equipment should provide us with plenty of information to aid in the fight against the Asian carp.