Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Help Collect Clam Data
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife SEACOR (Shellfish and Estuarine Assessment of Coastal Oregon) team’s primary goal is to figure out where and how many bay clams are in tidal flats that are popular with recreational and commercial clammers. In the last few years, we have been experimenting with alternative ways of collecting this data, because some of the areas we study are difficult to get to, some can be unsafe (deep mud!), and other ways of collecting data might help us save time.
We have had lots of help with this project, relying on various teams, scientists, and volunteers for their expertise. One group we look forward to working with every year is the Coastal Drone Academy, based out of the Lincoln City Career Tech High School. Dr. Chuck Getter and his student pilots help us by flying UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) surveys in Netarts Bay.
It can be difficult to differentiate between some clam holes, but it does help to make general classifications of different habitats! We can map clam beds, shrimp beds, eelgrass, macroalgae (seaweed), and even sand dollar beds. One interesting result we have found between years was significant changes in eelgrass distribution. This collaboration is a win-win for all of us – the students get experience flying, SEACOR gets valuable data to help us map habitat, and everyone enjoys getting muddy on the tidal flats!