Salmon-Oriented Ecosystem Monitoring in the California Current using Autonomous Survey Technology
With funding and logistic support from the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) Uncrewed Systems Operation Center, scientists from the NOAA Fisheries’, Fisheries Ecology Division, Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) are expanding the sampling capabilities of autonomous underwater gliders. The SWFSC will use autonomous vehicles (primarily Slocum gliders) equipped with acoustic instruments to augment data collection along the California and Washington coasts. This will demonstrate the efficacy of these tools to quantify how the ecosystem affects salmon and how ecosystem components rely on salmon. Understanding how salmon populations respond to changing ecosystems, including impacts of climate change and predator demand, will inform managers as they seek to meet mandated salmon restoration goals. However, providing ecosystem-informed advice requires new approaches to monitoring and research. Autonomous vehicles and other advanced technologies will provide data at a fraction of the costs of traditional ship-based surveys after initial investments are made.