FISHBIO has developed and tested prototype underwater cameras to monitor broad swaths of the river environment. While other camera monitoring systems are frequently used to record fish passing through confined structures, such as weirs or fish ladders, these custom cameras are designed to monitor large areas of inundated flood plains. So far, we have developed and tested two different systems. The first model is a self-contained floating solar panel with one underwater camera that passively records video. This floating camera with a 2 ft. x 2 ft. footprint can be deployed quickly and can record footage for a few hours up to a few days. The system is designed using a Raspberry Pi computer, which makes it possible for the camera to act as a data logger. The cameras not only run video recording software but can also be outfitted with sensors for temperature or dissolved oxygen. With onboard Wi-Fi, the units can be controlled from close range by using a Wi-Fi router to easily change settings and check data.
The second system has a centrally located job box that houses all the electronics needed to run up to 16 cameras simultaneously. These include a Network Video Recorder (NVR), solar controller, and four deep-cell batteries, which provide the power to run the system continuously along with two solar panels. The job box can be set up on shore or can be deployed in the floodplain on a floating platform or stilts to raise it above the water. The cameras are connected to the NVR with a waterproof network cable and can be placed up to 300 feet from the job box. During our initial deployment, we ran three of these units as 70-m transects perpendicular to the river channel, with cameras placed every 10 m. The cameras all faced down the transect line towards the center of the river, creating a video “fence” to detect fish as they moved through the floodplain. This passive sampling method is ideal for locations where it is difficult to execute active methods, such as seine nets and backpack electrofishing, or for a study that requires sampling for long periods of time.