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Designing satellite tagging studies: estimating and optimizing data recovery

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Satellite telemetry is used routinely to collect and transmit movement, behaviour and environmental data from free‐ranging animals. Satellite tags (hereafter SATs) are essential for collecting in situ data from animals where manual retrieval of a data logger is impossible. The collected data is fundamental for scientific and many management applications. However, the amount of data a SAT can transmit is limited by its battery life, transmission opportunities, bandwidth and satellite coverage. When designing a SAT study, these factors should be taken into account to ensure that limited transmissions are utilized as effectively as possible. In this paper we present a theoretical discussion of the factors that influence the data transmission and present tools for designing effective SAT studies. We calculate the optimal sampling period for the tag given its expected lifetime and regional variation in satellite coverage. Taking these factors into account allows prediction of the expected number of tags required to meet targets for a deployment. These methods are applied to a case study of a highly migratory pelagic fish tagged with popup archival satellite tags (PSATs). Our findings will be useful for SAT study design in general and demonstrate an approach which can reduce the ad hoc nature of SAT deployments.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Research Flagship and Marine & Atmospheric Research, GPO Box 1538, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia 2: Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies Nubeena Crescent, Taroona, Tasmania, 7053, Australia

Publication date: 2011-11-01

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