If you can't measure it, you can't improve it

Monitoring Steelhead trout in San Luis Obispo creek just got a little easier. San Luis Obispo City Biologist, Freddy Otte, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) installed a Dual Frequency Identification Sonar (DIDSON) in San Luis Obispo creek to monitor the fish, which are currently a threatened species in our area. DIDSON cameras use high or low frequency sound waves to create an image, allowing the viewer to see what passes in front of the lens. 

Getting the camera and gaining permission to use it in the creek has taken quite a long time for Freddy and CDFW. As members of the Watershed Stewards Program, my site partner and I shadowed Freddy, and got some insight into parts of the process for deciding on the placement of the camera.  This involves contacting several landowners next to the creek. Some landowners are very helpful and positive while others may refuse to have this activity on their property. When land owners said “Yes,” we also had to make sure there were the proper electrical hookups present to run the camera. Of course, the approving land owner is compensated for any electricity used by the DIDSON. The next step was finding a spot in the creek which was deep enough and uniform all the way across so the entire width of the creek is visible through the lens.

After some searching, we found the perfect spot for the camera. I am waiting for when there will be enough footage for us to start watching it and recording the data. Hopefully we will now be able to get a more accurate count of how many Steelhead trout we have in our creek.

Being new to this field, I’m surprised to learn that you cannot just place a camera in the water.  You have to get permits and permissions, in addition to getting cooperation from land owners. I was only there for about a month or two of the process, it is overwhelming to see the amount of time it takes to get a project up and running. By getting a chance to work on the DIDSON camera as well as other projects, I’m learning that you have to be patient and really push for what you want.  At the same time, however, you have to be mentally prepared for failure, because if something goes wrong, you may have to scrap you project.