GIS and Watershed AnalysisNews & Program Updates
Tools help conservation scientists track habitat changes on Sakhalin Island
In May WSC's Conservation Geographer Christina Friedle and Daniel Nelson organized the second in a series of GIS and Watershed Analysis seminars on Sakhalin Island. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a computer-based tool used to analyze salmon and habitat data, and to represent information spatially on maps and charts. WSC partner organizations, including the Sakhalin Salmon Initiative Center (SSIC), are beginning to use GIS and other technologies in their salmon monitoring programs. High-quality, accurate maps are an essential tool for tracking habitat changes in Sakhalin and promoting salmon conservation. Over the last two years the GIS training has been very successful. It directly supports the data analysis for the monitoring program conducted by SSIC, SakhNIRO and SakhRybvod.
SSIC's new Education Center at Sakhalin State University hosted the seminar. Participants represented a variety of organizations and specializations—a botanist from the Russian Academy of Sciences; fish biologists from SSI, Sakhalin Fisheries Research Institute (SakhNIRO) and Sakhrybvod; and students and teachers from Sakhalin State University. The participants learned how to create GIS stream and vegetation layers for use in monitoring projects, and how to incorporate field data into GIS for analysis and mapping.
Several participants, including seminar organizer Anatoly Semenchenko of SSIC, joined us on a five-day expedition to the Kura River in southern Sakhalin to put into practice the concepts learned in the classroom. During the day, the group collected fish, habitat, and vegetation data. Data collection methods used by the group in the field built upon the methods already used by local fish biologists, but they included some new techniques to make it easier to input the data into GIS. Evenings were spent uploading data and reviewing mapping techniques using GIS software.
The Kura river hosts a range of salmon species, and specimens of Taimen, Masu, pink, chum, and white spotted char were found within the first ten minutes of entering the river. The wild salmon in the Kura also support a variety of other species, including a colony of harbor seals that live off the coast just south of the river mouth, brown bears, gray whales, and a large diversity of birds.
Over the last few years, WSC and GIS software company, ESRI, have provided conservation organizations on Sakhalin with Russian-language mapping tools and instruction. Full implementation of this complex software takes time, but with continued interaction between GIS specialists and Russian fish biologists, high-level mapping technology will enhance monitoring of salmon habitat for years to come.