Tagging of Pacific Predators

The TOPP (Tagging of Pacific Predators) project began in 2000 as part of a 10-year, 80-nation "Census of Marine Life" research study to help better understand and protect how life is actually operating in the world's oceans.

The program is currently managed by NOAA’s Pacific Fisheries Ecosystems Lab, Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Lab, and the UC Santa Cruz Long Marine Laboratory and has tagged more than 4,000 individual animals across 23 species of predators that inhabit the Pacific Ocean with biologging sensors and tracking technologies.

The TOPP project uses several types of tags in their research studies:

  • Archival tags
    - These tags can last up to 10 years and are surgically implanted. The tags can record pressure (for depth), ambient light (to estimate location), speed of travel and internal/external body temperatures.
  • Pop-up archival tags (PAT)
    - These temporary tags have a battery life of around two weeks and can be released from an animal at a pre-set time (30, 60, or 90 days). They are used mainly on animals that don’t spend much time on the water's surface and are able to collect data on pressure, ambient light and internal and external body temperatures.
  • Smart Position or Temperature Transmitting Tag (SPOT)
    - Designed for animals living near the surface this tag can last up to two years and is designed to transmit its sensor data after the antenna of the device breaks the surface of the water. The data includes speed, pressure, water temperature and location data calculated by Doppler shifts in the transmission signal over time.
  • Satellite Relay Data Logger (SRDL)
    - These tags compress data for more efficient transmission to the Argos satellite. They can be combined with CTD tags to record temperature, depth & salinity profiles.

Once attached to the animals the tags send their location and sensor data to the Argos satellite (which is dedicated only to monitoring data focused on environmental research and protection) orbiting 850 km above the earth for the scientists to access. TOPP researchers then combine this information with other sea surface temperature maps and current chlorophyll location models to help them study specific species migration patterns, better manage fisheries, and help define management policies to protect the animals from being caught in nets or other industry activities.

Engineering has provided the biologging community with ever more sophisticated tags, and advances in the application of statistical methods to interpret these data have yielded powerful new tools for understanding animal behavior. The technology has also reached sufficient sophistication and reliability such that the data collected is often equivalent to industry standards for environmental sampling, which has led to profound advancements in the marine realm, where the sheer vastness, in 3 dimensions, limits our ability to observe. Biologging data is now being increasingly applied to marine management and conservation policy.
Remote Wildlife Tracking: TOPP
Remote Wildlife Tracking: TOPP

A video overview of the project's research is embedded below or you can visit for more information on the project's research results or to view movements of a particular species on the project's interactive maps.

Related: Lotek Wireless, Bumblebee project, Snow leopard protection, TagAGiant
Additional: Biologging technologies: new tools for conservation. Introduction (PDF)

Via @SmartThings


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