Loch Leven has been monitored by scientists for over 200 years and on a regular basis for over 50 years. As such the results of these numerous studies constitute ‘one of the largest limnological (yep google it!) datasets for shallow freshwater lakes in the world’. And I know this statement is true because it came from a peer reviewed scientific paper published by regular Loch Leven researchers Linda May and Bryan Spears at CEH!!
It’s a privilege to play a small part in this work, staff here on the reserve and at the Loch Leven fishery value the input we receive from these researchers. Recently we hosted another international delegation of scientists which was the culmination of weeks of discussion and planning. I think I can safely say it was one of the most complex projects we’ve hosted not least because it involved the use of drones, very much a hot topic at the moment. Because of the sensitivity of Loch Leven and international importance as a Natura site, Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Protection Area, a great deal of consideration was given to when and where to fly them and the type of drones used. With SNH reserve staff working immediately alongside the drone operators we were able to ensure no disturbance occurred. SNH has recently publicised the risks of operating drones near wildlife in this press release.
There was so much going on that I have asked the some of the scientists involved to contribute to our blog today;
‘MONOCLE (Multiscale Observation Networks for Optical Monitoring of Coastal waters, Lakes and Estuaries), led by Plymouth Marine Laboratory, is developing water quality observation solutions using a combination of satellites, buoys, ships, drones and hand-held devices. The field instruments range from highly accurate automated systems to low-cost sensor solutions that can be built and operated by the public.
We had a great week at Loch Leven with everything pretty much going according to plan, even the sun came out! Stefan Simis, our Scientific Coordinator and Scientist at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, was happy to see that: “Although it is still early in the project, getting the sensor prototypes out in the field provided a lot of useful data, and inspiration for the teams to further their development in the upcoming months. The support which we received on site from local stakeholders really contributed to this success”.
Drone pilot Stanislas van der Vaeren (of Sitemark) describes how: “One of the exercises at Loch Leven included flying with three drones simultaneously, to compare the sensors mounted on the drones, which meant we had to fly in close proximity to each other, all while keeping aligned with the boat drivers below. This was no easy feat!”
Spot the drone – how many can you see in the sky?
Initial results confirmed that low-cost consumer drones would be able to capture relevant imagery for water quality mapping. Further tests are planned in the coming years at Lake Balaton in Hungary, lakes around Stockholm (Sweden), the Danube delta in Romania and Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania, while the team improve methods for image interpretation and sensor calibration. The team will also continue to explore how local stakeholders can interact with researchers, consultants and citizens to access relevant environmental data from low-cost devices.
Simultaneous sampling from multiple platforms at the long term monitoring buoy
Using different approaches such as drone imagery and analysis of water samples from the same locations provides invaluable information, which we will use to help us interpret large-scale satellite images.
Throughout the week we also ran a Citizen Science programme, which brought together local people to learn some quick and easy ways to get involved with monitoring water quality in their local area. Steven Loiselle from Earthwatch Europe commented: “the MONOCLE field campaign demonstrated the high potential for integrating both high and low technology in Citizen Science monitoring of Lochs”. Hear more about what Steven has to say about citizen science here. ‘
These were just some of the various gadgets and gizmos deployed during the day at Loch Leven, personally I also liked a low cost monitoring buoy made from an old plastic bottle and a couple of go pro cameras which could monitor water clarity and colour. It is hoped that the technologies tested here could be used across the globe and by local communities where high tech monitoring is just not viable, with sites like Loch Leven remaining at the fore of this research.