A Review of Satellite Telemetry and Geolocation Techniques and Applications with Implications for Future Research

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Kristen Hart

Second Advisor

Richard E. Spieler


Satellite telemetry and geolocation are two relatively new research methods that have shown an increase in use over the past 15 years. As these technologies expand a review of the research on and data obtained from studies using this technology is necessary. I gathered and sorted papers dealing with cetaceans, fish, and elasmobranchs. A critical review of the resulting 38 papers shows a number of elements being overlooked in the study design process. I examined each paper for recording of species, sex, tag deployment, tag performance, hypothesis testing, and data filtering. Nine species of elasmobranch, eight species of marine mammal, and seven species of fish comprise the species for the papers analyzed. Of the animals tagged, researchers obtained gender from a mere 6%. Overall tag deployment is low with only bluefin tuna studies deploying over 100 tags per study. Tag performance is reported in 31.6% of the papers. I determined tag failure rating for each study based on a 25% and 50% level of longevity and calculated the rate per taxa. At the 25% level, the failure rating for elasmobranch studies was 33.93% whereas for fish it was higher at 61.26% and for marine mammals it was similar to elasmobranchs at 34.52%. At the 50% level, the failure rating for elasmobranch studies was 37.50% whereas for fish it was again higher at 62.01% and for marine mammals it was slightly lower at 48.81%. Only four papers provide a clearly stated hypothesis, with the majority providing simply an ambiguous statement of intent. Data filtering is used in 57.9% of the studies. However, there is no indication of uniformity of filtering methods between studies dealing with similar taxa. As we advance in the usage of satellite telemetry and geolocation in research science, the methods must be used more efficiently, not just more frequently.

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