When you think of “Shipwrecks” it’s possible your mind wanders toward vast oceans and the days of pirates, Spanish galleons, and lost treasures. While the excitement of discovering a sunken ship laden with gold might be hard to beat, it’s important to remember that marine history also lies within the worlds many lakes and rivers. For some just hearing the word “Shipwreck” brings about feelings of adventure and exploration. This was the case for Kalispell native, Kyren Zimmerman, who was captivated by the mysteries of the underwater world at a very young age. Learning to SCUBA dive at age 14 propelled him into a life-long devotion to marine conservation and underwater exploration.
After college, Kyren secured an entry position as a fisheries Technician with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. where he was able to gain experience assisting biologists in their field research for the Aquatic Invasive Species program. Gaining knowledge in marine biology led Kyren to more adventures abroad. In 2012 he was given the opportunity to volunteer for the Department of Conservation (similar to U.S. Fish and Wildlife) in New Zealand. Tasked to work on a trout mortality project, he started capturing compelling images with his GoPro. The unexpected value of the visual documentation earned him a paid position the next season. Through the lens of a camera, Kyren was not only able to document the trout, but its habitat changes throughout the season.
Discovering that film was a great way to share his passion for his submersed discoveries, he accepted a job with New Zealand Fish & Game to create graphic educational resources with his underwater camera. The objective was to document the deterioration of trout habitats in the Lindis caused by runoff from agricultural irrigation systems.
Kyren collected thousands of photos along the 8 miles stretch of river to create the first comprehensive visual study of the ecosystem's decline due to local agricultural practices. The result of this research was critical to the implementation of more efficient irrigation strategies and the recovery of the total ecosystem.
After returning to the U.S., Kyren continued to develop his marine photography skill set and finally got the chance to be part of Flathead Lake marine history when was asked to be the lead photographer for an archaeological survey expedition. The mission was to recover and relocate the Kee-O-mee, a 54ft leisure boat that went down in 1937. Filming the discovery of the historical boat launched his interest in marine archeology. It was then he realized that there was more to discover beyond the reach of his camera and dive gear. To get the footage he wanted, he needed a new piece of equipment.
With the purchase of a ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle), Kyren was now able take photos and videos at deeper depths (up to 300ft) and capture images in more hazardous environments. Kyren began to reach out to local conservation organizations and some local contracting opportunities came his way. One of these projects was to survey invasive mussels in Eastern Montana for Flathead Lake Biological Station. As interest in his ROV continued, Kyren improved its capabilities. His most significant ROV upgrade was the addition of underwater GPS to allow for automated search patterns, and improved photogrammetry (record, measure and interpret photographic images to give a detailed 3D model surveys). Armed with greater technology, Kyren is anxious to deploy his ROV into the depths of Flathead Lake to discover more wrecks.