While most of the crew are out finding fish, some are working to ready the environmental survey boats for spawning and migration habitat assessments. The R/V Theodore H. Schmudde is being mounted with an underwater microscope at the USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center. This “sand-cam” will take pictures of the sediments, bedrock, and revetment on the bottom of the Missouri River channel. It will be suspended off the boat from a bow mounted crane. A large piece of stainless steel will give it enough weight to sink to the bottom. Testing of the imaging system has gone without a hitch here in the lab. After the set-up is complete within the next week or so, we will be out on the river making surveys.
The primary survey goal with this instrument is to make direct, visual observations of substrate in areas where spawning and hatch occur. It is capable of discerning the entire range of substrate types including, mud, silt, sand, gravel, bedrock, revetment, or anything else that might be lying on the bottom. It can even help to tell the difference between two different sizes of sand. With any luck we will be able to see where eggs are deposited during spawning.