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February 17: Technology in Conservation

Updated: Mar 1

The program was held at the Delavan Club clubhouse. Dr. Chris Wells, Associate Professor of Parks and Recreation Leadership, Aurora University, was the first speaker.


Chris discussed how he uses Technology in Conservation in his classes at Aurora. One example is the data buoy, where buoys can be fitted with sensors that measure temperature, currents, and thermoclines. His students built one for Lake Geneva where there was a temperature sensor every five feet, then attached to the lake bottom. Data can be captured over time and be analyzed for trends and issues.


Another example was a partnership with the Illinois DNR at the Illinois Beach State Park. They were concerned about shoreline erosion so they surveyed the shoreline by going into the lake for fifty feet at 10 points on the beach, photographing the bottom and using graphics software to create images of the bottom for further analysis.


The students were asked to analyze aquatic debris on the bottom of Lake Geneva. They swam along 25 meter transects and picked up trash using an ROV (remotely operated vehicle).


The students also took a field trip to Florida to observe coral reef restoration projects, where coral was grown in a lab setting and transplanted to the Carysfort Reef.


Chris mentioned that there is an air quality sensor mounted between Lakes Como and Geneva that is accessible via and EPA map. There are also bioacoustics data sensors available; he has a project with the Chicago Acadameny of Sciences to count calling frogs at five sites.


Question: Has Chris looked at algae sensors?

Answer: He hasn’t used any but they are available. Northland College is using some.


The second speaker was James Bushey, Director of Technical Sales at Adaroma.


James brought an ROV and a drone to demonstrate. The ROV can be outfitted with sonar, lights, GPS and different shovels and scoops. It can be controlled using a remote control or a VR (virtual reality) headset. His company sells the equipment but also will contract for services. He offered to bring the ROV to a warm weather meeting where he could put it in the water for a demonstration. A popular use for them is hull inspections from the deck of a ship instead of using divers.


Drones are used for many military and government purposes but also for conservation and agriculture. Industrial drones can be used with gas sensors in a Hazmat situation. An agricultural drone can hold up to 10 gallons of seed or fertilizer and can do spraying and/or seeding. James gave a demonstration outdoors of the drone and viewing panel.


Q – Can drones be used to identify the source of runoff plumes upstream?

A – Yes


Q – Can bathometric studies be done?

A – Yes with ROVs, not drones


Q – Do you need a license to operate a drone?

A – For fun, no, but the kind of thing his company does requires a commercial ground pilots license. For a 55+ pound drone you also need various municipal permits to operate.


Starting in March, 2024, the FAA will require all drones to have a beacon so they will be trackable.


Q – What about the privacy issue?

A – It is an issue, various groups are working on it. For example, there is pending legislation to prevent wildlife harassment in public spaces. There are already no-fly zones in place.

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