From little things big things grow: enhancement of an acoustic telemetry network to monitor broad-scale movements of marine species along Australia’s east coast

Adam Barnett, Fabrice R.A. Jaine, Stacy L. Bierwagen, Nicolas Lubitz, Kátya Abrantes, Michelle R. Heupel, Rob Harcourt, Charlie Huveneers, Ross G. Dwyer, Vinay Udyawer, Colin A. Simpfendorfer, Ingo B. Miller, Tracey Scott-Holland, Carley S. Kilpatrick, Samuel M. Williams, Daniel Smith, Christine L. Dudgeon, Andrew S. Hoey, Richard Fitzpatrick, Felicity E. OsborneAmy F. Smoothey, Paul A. Butcher, Marcus Sheaves, Eric E. Fisher, Mark Svaikauskas, Megan Ellis, Shiori Kanno, Benjamin J. Cresswell, Nicole Flint, Asia O. Armstrong, Kathy A. Townsend, Jonathan D. Mitchell, Matthew Campbell, Victor M. Peddemors, Johan A. Gustafson, Leanne M. Currey-Randall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: Acoustic telemetry has become a fundamental tool to monitor the movement of aquatic species. Advances in technology, in particular the development of batteries with lives of > 10 years, have increased our ability to track the long-term movement patterns of many species. However, logistics and financial constraints often dictate the locations and deployment duration of acoustic receivers. Consequently, there is often a compromise between optimal array design and affordability. Such constraints can hinder the ability to track marine animals over large spatial and temporal scales. Continental-scale receiver networks have increased the ability to study large-scale movements, but significant gaps in coverage often remain. 

Methods: Since 2007, the Integrated Marine Observing System’s Animal Tracking Facility (IMOS ATF) has maintained permanent receiver installations on the eastern Australian seaboard. In this study, we present the recent enhancement of the IMOS ATF acoustic tracking infrastructure in Queensland to collect data on large-scale movements of marine species in the northeast extent of the national array. Securing a relatively small initial investment for expanding receiver deployment and tagging activities in Queensland served as a catalyst, bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders (research institutes, universities, government departments, port corporations, industries, Indigenous ranger groups and tourism operators) to create an extensive collaborative network that could sustain the extended receiver coverage into the future. To fill gaps between existing installations and maximise the monitoring footprint, the new initiative has an atypical design, deploying many single receivers spread across 2,100 km of Queensland waters. 

Results: The approach revealed previously unknown broad-scale movements for some species and highlights that clusters of receivers are not always required to enhance data collection. However, array designs using predominantly single receiver deployments are more vulnerable to data gaps when receivers are lost or fail, and therefore “redundancy” is a critical consideration when designing this type of array. 

Conclusion: Initial results suggest that our array enhancement, if sustained over many years, will uncover a range of previously unknown movements that will assist in addressing ecological, fisheries, and conservation questions for multiple species.

Original languageEnglish
Article number31
Number of pages16
JournalMovement Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2024


  • Animal movement
  • Drivers of migration
  • Fish
  • Migratory patterns
  • Residency
  • Sharks
  • Spatial ecology


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