UVic Eelgrass Study on Saturna Island

During the month of July a group of researchers, led by Natasha Nahirnick from the University of Victoria’s Spectral Lab, conducted eelgrass surveys of a handful of bays on Saturna Island. Partnering with a Victoria based UAV Services Company, High Angle UAV, the group collected aerial photography of the eelgrass meadows in Boot Cove, Lyall Harbour, and Narveaz Bay utilizing a small unmanned aerial vehicle, commonly known as a drone.

This work was conducted as part of a research project using archived aerial photographs to assess the long-term changes in eelgrass extent from 1932 to 2016, under the umbrella of the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s Salish Sea Marine Survival Project.

Eelgrass beds are a critical component to the health and function of nearshore marine ecosystems, providing habitat for juvenile Pacific salmon and Dungeness crab. However, seagrasses around the world have been in decline, driven by coastal development and subsequent changes in marine water quality. Accurate eelgrass maps are an imperative step towards striking a balance between human activities and conservation efforts in coastal areas.

For more information on this project, and the results of this work, please visit Natasha’s research project page. To find out more about how High Angle UAV is using cutting edge technology to assist in a variety of applications, check out their website.

Photo of the algae bloom that happened on July 13, taken above Lyall Harbour

Photo of the eelgrass between the beach and the private wharf two days later on July 15