What is Acoustic Backscatter and Why Should We Care?

Acoustic backscatter is a method we use to determine the concentration and movement of particles in river water. (See video below and more at this link.) Why do we care about particles? One reason is that certain toxins, such as PCBs, attach themselves to particles of river mud and silt. For example, by measuring the concentration of particles at our REON locations in the Hudson River estuary, we can determine the likelihood that tidal cycles, weather and storm events will mobilize and transport contaminated river particles from upriver to downriver, or even across the river, depending on local currents.

But river particles can also be organisms and food, and can be a signature that allows us to better understand the river’s hydrologic cycle. Through our increasing number of REON stations, measurement of river particles on a continuing basis will allow us to better understand the behavior of the Hudson’s estuarine ecosystem generally, as well as certain particles specifically. For more information on REON, particles and acoustic backscatter, and a fuller explanation of the video below follow this link.