Improvement for Harvesting Brine Shrimp Eggs from the Great Salt Lake

2009 Bingham Proposal

Bradley Stringer, Executive Director, Utah Center for Aeronautical Innovation & Development
John Cavitt, Professor of Zoology and Director, Office of Undergraduate Research

The bring shrimp egg industry has been valued at $28 to $60 million, depending on harvest yield. Eggs from the Great Salt Lake are considered among the best in the world. This research may help local companies by improving their harvesting process by increasing the number of hours each day that harvesting may be conducted and by making those harvesting hours more productive. The results of this research could increase royalty revenue to the state, preserve jobs and help to protect America's declining share of the international brine shrimp egg market.

Currently, shrimpers conduct most harvesting during daylight hours. Many use airborne spotters in small aircraft to guide their boats to floating "blooms" of brine shrimp eggs. Some shrimpers also increase their harvesting opportunity at nighttime by equipping their airborne spotters with generic night vision technology.

We propose to improve the nighttime harvesting process by equipping observation aircraft with an infrared camera that enables the spotter to more consistently locate floating brine shrimp eggs irespective of ambient lighting conditions. Furthermore, we predict that brine shrimp eggs located at shallow depths below the surface of the water will be visible to this technology.

In order to test our hypothesis, we will conduct a series of up to 10 nighttime flights over the Greate Salt Lake during the proscribed harvesting season. During each flight we will simultaneously gather imaging data of brine shrimp egg "blooms" from two sources: a passive light intensification device and a infrared thermal camera. To the greatest extent possible, the flights will be conducted in differing visible ambient lighting and flight conditions. The images from each data source will be contrasted and the results reported. Recommendations as to the optimal night vision technology and operation thereof will be made.

Click here for the full proposal.