Developing Ultrasound Imaging as a Fish Research and Management Tool at Reclamation Fish Facilities

Project ID: 4067
Principal Investigator: Susan Broderick
Research Topic: Ecosystem Needs
Funded Fiscal Years: 2008
Keywords: None

Research Question

* Can the emerging technology of ultrasonic imaging of fish be used to develop information critical for managing threatened & endangered fish for river management operations and at Reclamation fish facilities?

This scoping effort would develop an applied research and information transfer proposal aimed at adapting ultrasonic imaging of fish to the specific needs of Reclamation fisheries biologists and facilities managers.

Need and Benefit

Reclamation fish facilities handle large numbers of many different species of fish, a good share of which are threatened and endangered. Reclamation is also responsible for implementing flow releases that preserve and protect critical fish resources. Our facilities and operations often injure and kill fish in ways that are not acknowledged, documented or addressed. The emerging technology of ultrasonic imaging of fish offers great potential to assist Reclamation to address fish injury and mortality issues effectively and economically. The recent development of economical, durable, and portable ultrasound units with improved resolution that can be used in the field and in boats makes this new technology attractive. While this technology has great utility and applicability to Reclamations fisheries programs, it has not been widely used because of the expense of the original clinical ultrasound equipment, and the level of skills required to operate the equipment, as well as the fact that it is a recently developing technology.

This scoping proposal would be used to prepare a full proposal that would look at how Reclamation can take advantage of this new technology and to make the technology more use-friendly for biologists and river managers. The full proposal would develop training materials. Facilities and river operations would be identified that would provide the best application and training opportunities. The easiest to use and most economical equipment with the best resolution and durability would be selected and tested.
The following applications show promise for direct application to Reclamation facilities and operations:

* Ultrasound imaging is a noninvasive method to determine gender that is more accurate that visual methods. Egg development within the ovary can be measured noninvasively by measuring egg diameter on the screen. Knowing sex and reproductive condition of fish would allow Reclamation to better manage fish facilities (e.g., diversions, ladders, hatcheries, counting stations). It provides a good tool for broodstock selection for captive rearing programs.

* This technique could be used to determine the difference between resident rainbow trout and anadromous steelhead.

* Ultrasonic imaging could be used in conjunction with habitat restoration efforts to measure the response of many threatened and endangered (T&E) species in terms of reproductive condition. It is extremely difficult to monitor the response of populations of many T&E species such as sturgeons. Ultrasonic imaging would allow the direct assessment of reproductive stages of sturgeons and other species in the field with minimal impact to the fish. This technology is minimally invasive, yet sufficiently sensitive to allow investigators to track the progress of individual fish through the reproductive cycle and to determine whether spawning has occurred. Fecundity of fish in restored areas can be measured and compared against fish in adjacent areas to determine if environmental cues needed to trigger development and release of eggs are present in newly restored habitats.

* The proposed research would determine potential of ultrasound imaging to reveal internal injuries to fish passing through Reclamation facilities so that corrective measures can be developed.

* The proposed research would determine the potential of ultrasound imaging to visualize the extent of predation on threatened and endangered species by imaging stomach contents of predatory fish rapidly and non invasively

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Not Reviewed

The following documents were not reviewed. Statements made in these documents are those of the authors. The findings have not been verified.

Using Ultrasound as a Tool for Fish Research and Management (final, PDF, 400KB)
By Susan Broderick
Report completed on May 27, 2014

Ultrasound is a well-developed technology with broad application to Reclamation resource management and research endeavors. Ultrasound has evolved from the bulky, stationary units developed for human medicine in the 1960s to rugged, portable, high resolution units that can be used aboard boats, in adverse field conditions and at fish facilities that can provide rapid analyses that are non-lethal.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20