Smart tools to better understand the impact of humans on water bodies

Boaters or fishermen could soon come across autonomous vehicles on the water bodies of the ZEC Bas-Saint-Laurent. The Interdisciplinary Center for Development in Ocean Mapping (CIDCO) has just developed a research partnership with the ZEC Bas-Saint-Laurent to develop and test intelligent tools on water bodies in order to have a better knowledge of these environments. natural resources and learn more about the human impact.

“There are few lakes that are mapped in such a way as to know what is at the bottom. However, we frequently find all kinds of waste, cars, household appliances, cans or even remnants of old industries, such as the forestry industry,” reveals Guillaume Labbé-Morrissette, director of research and development at the Interdisciplinary Center for Development in Ocean Mapping (CIDCO).

The intelligent tools developed and tested by CIDCO will thus make it possible to scrutinize the water bodies of the ZEC Bas-Saint-Laurent in order to better understand the different impacts of human activity on the water bodies, with issues such as pollution of lakes or pollution of the seabed. The goal is to acquire and generate data, as well as to develop decision-making tools that can facilitate the work of decision-makers, explains Mr. Labbé-Morrissette.

Developed and tested in a controlled environment such as lakes, these tools can also be used in an ocean environment. “The issues in marine geomatics in an oceanic environment — even if there are issues that are different in a saltwater environment versus in freshwater — overlap, and the tools that can be used are the same”, says the director.

Develop useful tools for experts in the field

CIDCO and ZEC Bas-Saint-Laurent are collaborating and pooling their expertise to develop tools that will be used by experts in the field. For example, the tools developed could, by means of artificial intelligence, automatically generate characterization maps of ecosystems or try to predict the presence of vegetation or different types of substrates. The technologies used would also make it possible to better understand the supply of certain lakes thanks to satellite imagery.

“It’s really about creating products that can then be reused by experts in the field, for example, biologists or ZEC managers, to then facilitate the management of different resources”, points out Mr. Labbé-Morrissette.

Autonomous vehicles could patrol a lake without having to mobilize large teams and have, in a day, high-resolution imagery of the bottom of the lake.

Three types of autonomous vehicles will crisscross the lakes of the ZEC, explains Mr. Labbé-Morrissette. There will be “torpedo-style” submarines that will make horizontal runs with side-scan sonars to scan the seabed. These submarines are used in deep water, but in the case of shallow water lakes, they are surface vehicles that will be used to obtain a 3D surface of the seabed. For precision measurements, it is a vehicle ROV (remoterly operated vehicle) with a kind of “umbilical cord” immobilized in the water column which will allow close exploration of certain structures, such as wrecks.

Guillaume Labbé-Morrissette emphasizes the importance of collaboration between the various experts in the region. “There are expertise in the region that can develop well when people work together. By providing local stakeholders with technological tools that increase knowledge of the region’s natural environments, CIDCO and ZEC Bas-Saint-Laurent want the region to become an example of natural resource management to better meet the challenges of climate change and the protection of natural environments.