Estimating Salmonid Food Webs in Large River Ecosystems

Estimating prey availability within large river ecosystems presents numerous challenges for wildlife managers and freshwater ecologists. Conventional methods, which utilize drift-nets, becomes difficult with increasing water velocity due to the accumulation of organic material within nets of a certain mesh size (Hauer and Lambert 2007). In addition, the processing of multiple drift-net samples can prove to be time consuming and expensive. Together these constraints significantly limit the capacity to sample large rivers at the necessary temporal and spatial scales.  The development and fine tuning of next generation camera technology and high resolution photo imagery could prove to be a valuable alternative when sampling insect dispersal in various capacities of lotic environments. The Scripps Plankton Camera (SPC), employs a Point Grey Grasshopper 3 – 12 mega-pixel camera with high intensity LED strobes, Opto-Engineering 0.137X magnification lens and Odroid-XU4 electronics to detect semi-transparent organisms in turbid environments. The camera is governed by a C++ program and runs in a standard LINUX operating system. Prototypes of the SPC have been deployed to continuously and effectively measure meiofauna in oceanic environments. However the application of the SPC in riverine ecosystems has yet to be explored.

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