Animal Telemetry PDF Print E-mail

Advancing the application of animal telemetry data in ecosystem management


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Project overview


The technological advancement of telemetry devices is enabling highly accurate and detailed recordings of animal movement and habitat selection. The telemetry equipment is however, reasonably costly, considerable effort is required to attach the device, and the process is stressful to the animal. With this in mind, are we as a research community making the most efficient use of these ecological data, and are the findings from telemetry studies being transferred into successful management actions for fisheries and wildlife?

Australia is the world’s third largest producer of scientific publications pertaining to animal movement and location. Nearly all tertiary institutions have one or more groups utilising animal telemetry, and similarly, governmental natural resource departments and conservation NGOs are regularly carrying out wildlife tracking projects. Much of these research projects are undertaken to answer specific biological or management questions and the data is often redundant beyond its original application. Moreover, the data are generally stored on personal hard-drives and inaccessible to the wider scientific community. Assimilating these datasets and integrating them with environmental data has great potential for enhancing and accelerating our knowledge and understanding of Australian ecosystems. There are however, a number of analytical challenges associated with sharing and synthesising these data.

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Spatial prioritisation analysis techniques are becoming widely used tools to protect areas for the preservation of biodiversity, but so far rely upon species presence data collected primarily by human observation. Individual-based animal movement data recorded through telemetry devices improves upon these data by moving the point of observation from the observer to the observed. Using these type of data within species distribution models and spatial prioritisation analysis would represent a significant improvement in efficiency over the use of presence data because it recognises that different habitats have different relative values, and, therefore, will differ in their contribution to the conservation goal.

This working group will bring together some of the leaders in the field of animal movement ecology, species distribution modelling, and spatial prioritisation analysis to improve the transfer of animal telemetry data into ecosystem science and resource management. Participants will bring a diverse array of animal telemetry data to share from their respective projects, and these data will be synthesised to address the following questions:



(i) How can animal location data collected by different technologies and sampling regimes be integrated without introducing error?
(ii) What individual-based models can be created from these data to demonstrate population distribution throughout the landscape?
(iii) How can data collected from individual -based models be used within a spatial prioritisation analysis to designate areas of conservation significance?


For further information about this group, please contact the Principal Investigator, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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Products and outcomes


This group has produced two summary outcomes: one a summary of the collated literature with comment, the other a case study with telemetry data provided by Arid Recovery.


Download publication overview report here [1MB]


Download their final report here [2.2MB]


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Workshop Reports



Workshop 1 Report (19 – 23 November 2012)

The first group meeting took place on Stradbroke Island and was composed of biologists, mathematicians, and resource managers. Each member provided a 15 minute presentation, and collectively demonstrated the wide application of animal telemetry research throughout Australia and New Zealand. The group quickly agreed that whilst animal telemetry provided accurate and high resolution information about an animal’s interaction with its environment, the data are rarely used quantitatively by resource managers of the terrestrial environment.


In order to advance the application of animal telemetry data in ecosystem management, the group set itself two objectives:


1. Create an inventory to ascertain the magnitude, diversity, and breadth of animal telemetry data throughout Australia and New Zealand;
2. Refine a methodology where by the fine-scale space and habitat-use data derived from telemetry technologies is incorporated within an ecosystem management framework.


An inventory of animal telemetry projects from Australia and New Zealand over the past five years will be created from published literature, government reports, and environment agency permit applications. We aim to have these data compiled by the second working group meeting (commencing 23 April, 2013).

The conceptual framework we developed for enhancing the application of animal telemetry data in ecosystem management involved generating habitat selection models (step selection functions) based on movement data from tagged individuals. These will then be combined to generate population-level models, which are in turn used to create detailed predictions of the spatial distribution of the population.

These distribution maps could be used directly to inform management decisions but, in conjunction with simulations of the movement models, also quantify landscape connectivity. This would provide information not only on the relative value of the resources within a patch, but also the value of that patch for facilitating animal movement through the landscape.

We propose that these data could be integrated within a spatial prioritisation framework to enhance the allocation of management efforts spatially. We will use simulated animal tracks for proof-of-concept, and in the second working group meeting address a real-world problem using actual animal telemetry data.


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L-R back: Yusuke Fukuda, Hawthorn Beyer, Todd Dennis, Norbert Menke, Hamish Campbell, Ross Dwyer, Craig Richardson, Matt Watts, James Forester, Mark Hindell. Front: Graham Taylor


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Workshop 2 Report (23 - 27 April 2013)

Our Second workshop was held at the Point Lookout Surf Life-Saving Club on Stradbroke Island. The venue offered great views and lunchtime swimming to break up those long hours in front of the white board.

The overall objective of the Animal Telemetry in Ecosystem Management group was to advance the application of individual-based data within ecosystem management. To achieve this goal, the group (with the assistance of an ACEAS-funded RA, Essie Rodgers) compiled three databases in the interim period since the first meeting. The focus of this second meeting was to analyse and synthesise these data.

One of the issues identified in the first meeting was that animal telemetry projects are often carried out to define a specific management objective and the data or findings are not made available, or are may not be relevant, to the wider community. Therefore, our first objective was to compile a database of animal-borne telemetry projects from both the published literature (2000—present) and government permit applications. The comparison between the two would provide a rough estimation of project cost and the proportion of data and findings that are available to the ecological community.

The literature database was compiled from Web of Science. A total of 470 scientific papers were collected, from which information such as technology, species, number of animals tagged, tracking days, location, times from study to publication, citations, and contact details were collected (Figure 1). The database compiled from government permit applications is not yet completed but will be compared with the scientific literature database to assess knowledge transfer.


Figure 1. The spatial distribution of animal-borne telemetry research projects between 2000 and 2013. The data have been compiled from the peer-reviewed scientific literature. This layer will be made available through the ACEAS portal, and users will be able to query projects under different criteria, access the paper through the DOI and contact the authors.


As well as providing an index of what archival data are available, the group also addressed the issues and complexities in obtaining third-party animal-borne telemetry data and using it to address a resource management issue.

The animal-borne telemetry data collected for this exercise was obtained from an NGO located in South Australia (Arid Recovery). The resource management issue facing Arid Recovery is how to most efficiently eradicate introduced predators (cats and foxes) to allow for successful reintroduction of native mammals (Bettongs and Bilbies), and of course achieve this within their available budget.

The group collected archival telemetry data for each species and relevant environmental layers (obtained through the TERN DDP) to model spatial distribution, habitat association, range overlap and dispersal potential of each species.

The findings from the ACEAS group will be used to guide adaptive management for Arid Recovery over the coming year. The success of the ACEAS group’s ability to improve ecosystem management through the use of animal-borne telemetry will be determined by the number of invasive predators killed and the success of the native mammal reintroduction program.


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Animal Telemetry Workshop 2 Participants Left to right: Graeme Taylor (Department of Conservation, NZ), Catherine Lynch (Arid Recovery), Todd Dennis (University of Auckland, NZ), Craig Richardson (ERIN,  Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities), Ross Dwyer (University of Queensland), Norbert Menke (Qld Department of Environment and Heritage Protection), David Westcott (CSIRO), Hamish Campbell (University of Queensland), Juan Morales (Universidad Nacional del Comahue in Bariloche, Argentina), Hawthorne Beyer (University of Queensland), Yusuke Fukuda (NT Department of Conservation).
Apologies: Mark Hindell (University of Tasmania)


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Last Updated on Sunday, 08 February 2015 15:44