NOAA SEFSC Spherical Camera

If you want to look for fish, you better look all around. What better way to do that than with a spherical camera? To address this task, Riverside’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC) personnel helped design and construct a camera which views 360-degree areas around the camera array. Use of this new camera along with a 3D printer has resulted in more thorough and cost effective surveys. The team has done an amazing job meeting their goal to assemble full-spherical cameras to assist in evaluating the distribution of fishes around the cameras and to make comparisons to single axis view type cameras.IMG_0541

The Reeffish crew from left to right: Andre DeBose, James Johnson, Joey Salibury, Ryan Cailouet, and Matt Campbell.

Part of what the Reeffish Unit does is work with a drop camera system. The objective of the reef fish survey is to sample reef fish populations in the Gulf of Mexico using nondestructive techniques of video technology. This type of sampling is used to develop an abundant index of specifically important reef fish species for NMFS management for estimating species populations for regulatory and management purposes. Team members use digital video technologies and visualization methods to support imagery analysis, simulation, and data record requirements. In the past, a four-camera rig or trap/digital video system was deployed from a NOAA vessel to various hard bottom sites in the Gulf of Mexico. The four cameras took video from each axis of the camera array – like a compass, north/south/east/west axis. Now, the spherical camera views 360-degree areas around the camera array. The video is stitched together at the lab using special software so the video reader can view the video in 360 degrees. A 3D printer was purchased to help in the development of the spherical camera. Ryan Caillouet has used it to generate prototypes of different pieces of the camera system, jigs for sizing parts, and in the camera development. For extra credit – he even used it to help develop a new biopsy tip for the Marine Mammal Unit.

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Ryan Caillouet explains the use of the spherical camera and 3D printer during a visit from Brian Ashe, Riverside CEO, and George Smith, Riverside Director of Client-Site Operations.

The biggest issue recent surveys faced was the cost of the cameras, and the size and weight of the array. This was directly impacting the number of samples and where they were getting them spatially. Riverside’s SEFSC personnel cut the cost of the camera build by 75%. Previously, one stereo camera cost $20k, and an entire array would be $80k. With the new camera, this build will deliver full spherical, stereo-vision, and the entire array will cost ~$20k.

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NOAA R/V Pisces departing the Pascagoula dock for the 1st leg of the Reeffish Survey where the spherical cameras will be used in a production phase for the first time.

Congratulations to the inventive Riverside SEFSC personnel that turned a challenge into an opportunity!

Employee Spotlight: Sean McFeely

Sean has been a Product Manager at Riverside for a year and a half.  His current duties are to guide the development of a sustainable and profitable product based on flood inundation mapping technology.  He does things like market research, define functionality, document requirements and use cases, contribute to user interface design and generally work closely with engineering, marketing and development.   When not at work, he plays music, hikes, camps, fly fishes, work in the yard and hangs out with his family.

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Sean McFeely Fly-fishing on the Cache La Poudre River in Colorado

  1. What three traits describe you?

Patient, persistent, creative.

  1. What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?

In sixth grade, I walked the stadium stairs and sold Cokes at Colorado University home football games (Cokes here!).

  1. What would you do (for a career) if you weren’t doing this?

I would be a musician. I play guitar at establishments around Fort Collins.

  1. What kind of music do you listen to?

I’ll listen to anything that is creative and dynamic, but I mostly listen to indie, alternative and progressive rock music.  I like to turn on KCSU and take my chances.

  1. Tell us about your most unique travel experience.

I lived in England for a year when I was in junior high and I travelled to the former Soviet Union with a friend and his family for two weeks.  It was very strange.  We were required to stay in a designated hotel for western tourists.  My friend and I stood outside the hotel on the street and ‘illegally’ traded western items like jeans and tapes for soviet trinkets and flags, just for fun.  At one point, we saw two police officers on the sidewalk walking towards us with rifles strapped to their shoulders, but they just ignored the obvious activity and walked on by.

  1. What’s on or in your nightstand?

Guitar picks, topo maps, books, pocket knives.

  1. Name a food item you wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole.

Miracle Whip.

  1. What movie could you watch over and over? Why?

‘8 ½’.  It just has so many interesting layers: the story, the acting, the actors, the music, the cinematography; it is honest, original, light hearted, mysterious, deep, very personal and highly relatable.  I could go on.  It is a classic.

  1. If you could choose one amenity to add to the workplace, what would it be?

A Chef.

The Southern Journey

In late 2014, two Riverside employees: David Saksa and Keith Bates captained a boat from Northern Michigan down the Mississippi to the Southeast Fisheries Science Center of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in an impressive feat of technical skill and ingenuity. Their ability to modify the boat during their journey to fit under bridges and eventually become a scientific research vessel saved the government more than 7 million dollars.

As a part of their work with the Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC), Riverside provides captains and crew for small boats (20-80ft), as well as providing scientific support to federal fisheries management and federally-listed protected species conservation for the geographic area encompassed by the coastal states from North Carolina through Texas, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the U.S. Caribbean.

The SEFSC was experiencing challenges in completing mission critical surveys, including programs that Riverside offered support on, such as gear development and research. This program involves design, construction, and maintenance of survey sampling gear used on fisheries-independent resource surveys such as trawls, longlines, bandit reels, etc. The program also conducts gear modification research to reduce bycatch of fish, sea turtles, and other protected species in a variety of Southeast Region fisheries. Increasing demand and competition within and across NOAA line offices for research time aboard NOAA Fisheries research vessels put pressure to find a vessel that could replace the SRV  Gandy, a buoy tender with limited space and function for fisheries work.

In the summer of 2014, the SEFSC staff located a potential replacement vessel available for transfer to the SEFSC by the U.S. Geological survey in northern Michigan. SEFSC staff traveled to Michigan to inspect the vessel with assistance from David Saksa. Mr. Saksa’s estimation of the condition of the vessel based on his expertise with the operation and maintenance of marine vessels and systems was very important to the SEFSC’s decision to acquire the vessel.

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In December 2014, David Saksa and Keith Bates helped coordinate and execute a challenging inland journey serving as captain and crew along with other SEFSC staff during a 2-week transit of the vessel from Michigan to Mississippi. They worked skillfully under pressure to modify the vessel in route to reduce height for safe passage under bridges. Upon arriving in Pascagoula, David and Keith immediately went to work to thoroughly clean and refurbish the vessel. During the spring and summer of 2015 they completely remodeled and upgraded the vessel’s bridge, rewiring and installing new navigation and sounding electronics. Vessel captain (Saksa) and first mate (Bates) diligently performed numerous tasks to prepare the vessel for a planned September 2015 research cruise including oversight of the installation of deck steering, throttle controls, and high-efficiency heating/cooling units in labs and staterooms. The refurbished and newly named R/V Southern Journey conducted its maiden NOAA Fisheries survey in September 2015 and was formally christened in February 2016.

Since the maiden voyage, additional modifications to the vessel have included outriggers, a second deck winch platform and hydraulic winch systems. Contributing to this work was Riverside employee Warren Brown, who in addition to vessel crew support, provided welding and pipefitting expertise.

The significance of the efforts expended by David and Keith toward the creation of a highly effective research vessel for the SEFSC cannot be overstated. Their expertise with the repair and maintenance of marine vessel systems coupled with “hands-on” hard work and a mission-oriented attitude has resulted in a valuable asset for the SEFSC. The acquisition of the R/V Southern Journey promotes the continuity of long-term fisheries data time series, and enhances NOAA’s ability to conduct quality and timely stock assessments for commercially important species. The vessel will provide access to sensitive areas which are inaccessible by larger ships, offering a lower-cost option and offsetting lost sea days on NOAA ships due to repairs and the greater need to share vessels as ships are retired. Additionally, the repurposing of a government asset has resulted in a major cost savings for NOAA. The cost for a new scientific research vehicle (SRV) was estimated at $8,000,000. Acquisition, transport, and re-fitting of the R/V Southern Journey to meet NOAA small boat safety and NMFS mission requirements cost only $344,000, resulting in a $7,600,000 cost savings to the government.

Balcones National Wildlife Refuge

By Keith Hamilton, Biological Technician on Riverside’s U.S Fish and Wildlife Contract

Over a two-week period in late March, I traveled to the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) to train two Student Conservation Association (SCA) personnel on how to monitor for monarch butterflies/eggs/larva, nectar plants, milkweeds, and Red Imported Fire Ants (RIFA). The NWR is in Region 2 of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The first week of the training was primarily classroom-based and folks from different Texas agencies attended that session of the training. The second week consisted of myself, two other trainers, and the two SCAs being in the field. The SCAs received some hands-on training that week.

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Pictures were taken during the two-week trip in March to Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).

My primary roles were training the SCAs on the proper way to record, enter, review, and edit data; training the SCAs on how to select sites for monitoring; training the SCAs on how to use the iPads for navigation and monitoring activities; making sure folks were where they were supposed to be; scheduling the day’s activities; acting as the go-between/communications link for the office and people in the field; testing out the apps/computer programs, gear, and new monitoring methods in the field.

The other trainers were Alex Fryman, who works for Region 6 of the USFWS through an agreement with North Dakota State University, and Tenlea Turner, who is an employee of the USFWS and is based out of Neal Smith NWR, Iowa.

 

Riverside Continues its Support to the NOAA/NESDIS Independent Review Team

Under subcontract to Infinity Technology Inc., Riverside Technology inc. continued its support to NOAA/NESDIS Independent Review Team (IRT) activities.  Chaired by Mr. A. Thomas Young, former Director of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and President/COO of Martin Marietta, the IRT completed its third independent evaluation of the NESDIS mission since 2012, providing expert analysis of how NESDIS is addressing its challenges and opportunities.  Riverside’s Director of Federal Programs, Mr. Brian Mischel, supported the IRT as Executive Secretary providing organizational and logistics support to the IRT’s activities while Ms. Meredith Wagner from our TPIO team provided Secretariat support.

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The Appropriations Hearing Room

The IRT final report has been submitted to NESDIS and successfully briefed to NOAA and NASA senior leadership, the Department of Commerce, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the House and Senate staffs of the appropriate appropriations and authorization committees.  The report addressed a wide range of topics and produced the following summary findings:

Continued Progress – The IRT believes that the NESDIS path forward is positively established and that NESDIS is capable of embarking on that path.

A Vital National Mission – The IRT believes that NESDIS’ critical national mission to provide weather, severe storm and environmental intelligence is critically important to our lives and property, national security, economy, and quality of life.  Acknowledgement of the importance and ensuring the implementation of the enabling capabilities consistent with the criticality of the mission, at all leadership levels, is mandatory.

Revitalizing Partnerships – NASA is an important part of the Nation’s weather and severe storm mission.  The relationship between NOAA and NASA needs to be better defined and strengthened.

Weather Observation System Robustness and Gap Mitigation –  The JPSS governance, robustness, and potential gap mitigation are continuing significant concerns.  Future space and associated ground systems must be robust with “two failures to a gap” criterion and provide “equal or better” weather forecasting and severe storm monitoring performance.  JPSS and GOES-R follow-on (beyond the current four each) decisions are imminent and require attention.  Given the time available, additional GOES and JPSS satellite systems should be acquired, unless new technology and/or commercial solutions can be demonstrated to be robust and “equal or better” to the existing performance baseline.

Weather Observation is a System of Systems – Weather forecasting and severe storm monitoring are influenced by a multitude of interacting factors: satellite system performance; ground system; weather models; algorithms; etc.  This suggests that an end-to-end system analysis is necessary to properly balance these contributors.

A copy of the IRT Final Report can be accessed here.