Abernathy Fish Technology Center
Pacific Region

Applied Research Program in Ecological Physiology

Capability/Technical Service - Development and evaluation of remote monitoring technologies.

Overview. The Applied Research Program in Ecological Physiology has the technological knowledge and tools to design and develop remote monitoring devices for detecting fish, frogs, or other aquatic organism movements. The Program has developed stationary remote monitoring systems to measure fish movements through water diversions, culverts, estuarine habitats, near dams, and in streams as well as mobile tracking solutions. These systems, designed to be 'biologist budget' friendly, are individually tailored to the needs of each unique project and include biological (animal size and behavior), environmental (stream size, substrate characteristics, hydrology) and logistical (remote communication and data access, duration of deployment) considerations. Our staff can help you customize a design for your specific needs.

Passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag systems are used extensively in the Pacific Northwest for monitoring the behavior and survival of juvenile and adult salmonids in the Columbia River Basin. PIT technology is a type of RFID (radio frequency identification) which operates at low frequencies. Study animals are implanted with a PIT tag and movements of animals through antennas are then recorded. PIT tag systems are composed of a transceiver and a wire loop antenna. The transceiver powers the tags and reads unique ID codes transmitted by the tags by energizing one or more loops of wire to generate a magnetic field. When a tag enters the field, it becomes energized and transmits a unique ID code which is received by the wire loops and is decoded by the transceiver. The PIT tag codes are synced with a time and date stamp and data is often collated to a computer or memory chip for later download at the site or autonomous upload to a database. Systems can be installed in remote locations and powered by various on-site power sources (solar panels, thermoelectric generators, hydropower, wind turbines, etc.) to minimize the need for grid power, and remote communications can be established through a variety of means (cellular, satellite, or meteor burst modems, etc.).

For a detailed standard operating procedure (SOP) on PIT tag interrogation system construction, please see the following:
Aquatic PIT Tag Interrogation System Construction and Standard Operating Procedure: Procedures for the construction and installation of antennas that detect and decode PIT tags for the identification of individual aquatic organisms (3.99MB PDF file)

Click the links below to further explore the basic components and installation of a remote monitoring system:
PIT Tags and Transceivers
Power Solutions
Data Collection and Communications
Examples of PIT-tag interrogation systems

Partners Bonneville Power Administration, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U. S. Forest Service, U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, Utah State University, and the USFWS, Columbia River Fisheries Program Office

Last updated: September 24, 2014
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