Starting in September and going through November of 2019, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will partner with Washington State University (WSU) on a research project to use drone technology to advance conservation efforts for summer Chinook salmon.
An unmanned aerial vehicle – also known as a drone – will be used to identify and inventory salmon spawning nests, called redds, in three areas of the Upper Wenatchee River watershed. Those areas include near Lake Wenatchee, near Tumwater Campground, and near Blackbird Island (near Leavenworth). In addition, surveys conducted on foot and by boat will also be used.
The use of a drone is expected to provide improved data for more accurate population forecasting. It is also less expensive and labor intensive than manual count methods used in the past. The use of the drone, and drone pilot Daniel Auerbach’s expertise, will be of minimal cost to WDFW. Auerbach is a graduate student at WSU’s School of Environment and this project is part of his thesis research. His work is a collaboration with WDFW’s McLain Johnson, who leads research efforts in the area.
High resolution photos and video taken by the drone will help to identify spawning locations and habitat characteristics. Redd abundance and distribution are common metrics used to monitor and evaluate the status and trend of adult salmon populations.