With the water warming and the pallid sturgeon about to begin spawning migrations, scientists at the USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center are finishing preparations for deploying the underwater microscope (aka “sand-cam”). As we mentioned a couple weeks ago, the “sand-cam” is designed to take optical-light pictures of the river bottom, or substrate, which includes mud, sand, gravel, bedrock, and revetment. Here is a picture of the camera encased in a large steel weight which will help it sink through the turbulent water as it is reeled out.
Researchers ran a successful full-scale field test above a shallow bar near Huntsdale, MO. The camera, lowered over the bow, is attached to a digital HD VCR. The VCR returns continuous images so that we can see the camera sinking through the water and finally coming to rest on the river bottom. It also takes high resolution still photos.
As planned, we captured excellent images of the sandy top of the bar near Huntsdale. This technology will be used to characterize physical habitats used by pallid sturgeon for migration and spawning.