In the Same Boat – US and Russian Scientists Collaborate to Study Large Rivers

Scientists from the Institute for Biology of Inland Waters (IBIW), Russian Academy of Sciences, in Borok, Russia visited the USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center (CERC) from October 16-30, 2011.  The visit was part of an ongoing exchange of scientists between the two institutes that spans nearly four decades.

Learn more about the ongoing exchange program by reading this Columbia Environmental Research Center and the Institute for Biology of Inland Waters information sheet.

The CERC Rivers Studies Branch hosted Mikhail Malin, from the IBIW Laboratory of Fish Ecology, to continue collaborative research on the use of multiple sonar technologies for the assessment of fish distribution and fish stock assessment in large rivers and reservoirs.  Researchers from the IBIW and CERC are investigating the application of single-beam, split-beam, sidescan and DIDSON sonar technologies in large, complex systems.  These technologies use underwater sound visualizations allowing scientists to determine where fish are, how abundant they are, and even how fish are behaving and interacting with one another.

Mikhail Malin, visiting IBIW scientist, prepares to lower a hydroacoustic transducer into the water from a CERC research vessel below Bagnell Dam on the Osage River, Missouri. The CERC and IBIW collaborated with the Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Missouri to assess the distribution of paddlefish below the dam using telemetry, sidescan sonar, and DIDSON.

Successful application of these hydroacoustic technologies on the Missouri River can provide insight into where species, such as the endangered pallid sturgeon or invasive Asian carps, aggregate and spawn.  These tools can also be used to assess the importance of tributaries for spawning or as refuge for fish during flooding, or the extreme heat of summer and cold of winter.  Combining hydroacoustic technologies with telemetry and standard fish sampling techniques may also be useful in evaluating the success of habitat construction projects for rare or endangered species.  Scientists from both countries are also working together to use hydroacoustic technology to aid develop measures to control Asian carps that may compete with native Missouri River fishes for habitat or food.  International collaboration among scientists builds on the expertise in both countries to advance scientific understanding and develop new approaches to address shared environmental concerns.

Data from a single-beam hydroacoustic survey conducted by CERC and IBIW Scientists in the Osage River, a Missouri River tributary in Missouri. This data shows aggregations of fish in 3 meters of water along the edge of an underwater bar.

By Aaron DeLonay

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